Saturday, April 9, 2016

Using Notice and Note to Engage Students

We've been reading and trying out the Notice and Note books from Kylene Beers and Bob Probst this year.  We implemented the fiction signposts at the end of last year and loved them, so this year they became one of the first parts of the year in reading.  It was great to read a fun read aloud with the students and then hear about all of signposts they noticed as we went.

The Notice and Note books focus on 5 or 6 "signposts" or things to notice when reading either nonfiction or fiction texts.  They help students dig deeper into the text to make predictions, inferences, identify theme, determine author's purpose,  bias, and critically look at the validity of texts.

We anxiously awaited the nonfiction version from Beers and Probst which arrived mid second quarter.  A small group of us participated in a book study and were anxious to get started with our students.  I loved the 3 "Big Questions" that were presented and thought this was a wonderful starting point with my students.  I introduced one per day while working through several short nonfiction pieces with the students to explain the concepts.  I was looking for a way to make my social studies units more meaningful (and fun) for students, so I got right into changing everything up.

In our social studies book, there are  four HUGE units with a ton of lessons in each.  I cut out all of the fluff like review questions that I'd pour over grading and become so frustrated that many weren't "getting it" and started with a basic read.  Students read the lesson with partners or small groups while I monitored the room and met with my lower readers to be sure they were understanding the text.  As students read they "marked up" their text with sticky notes that followed the 3 "Big Questions".  On their stickies they wrote what surprised them, why, and how it changed their thinking about what they were reading (and likewise for the other two questions).  Sticky notes were left in students' books until the next day when we had a class discussion.  Students circled up on the floor and we talked about the lesson that was read.  It was amazing to see the engagement and hear all of the students' thoughts.  More sticky thoughts were added as the conversation continued.  I was able to direct some of the conversation as needed, but it was mostly student-led.  The thinking went way beyond the basic concept in the lesson with many "wonderings" and further research happening to find answers.  As we continued "studying" Indiana's history in this fashion, students stopped groaning and complaining when the period came around, but rather looked forward to and enjoyed their learning much more.  The final part of this piece was for students to transfer 2-3 of their "best thinking" to a Google Doc that I had set up to help them keep track of their Big Question thinking.

How did I assess the student learning?  During my casual observations of the first day's work time, I carried a clipboard with a checklist of students.  I noted who was focused, on task, working hard, etc. and any questions that were arising.  The clipboard was also present for the whole group share-out discussion.  I noted who participated, who needed encouragement, thoughts, ideas, etc., basically anything that would be helpful for my weekly effort grades and follow-up needs.  These were all quick notes or anecdotals that drove instruction and conversations along with checking the aforementioned Google Doc.  For the summative at the end of the unit, I used one of the strategies Beers and Probst suggested the end of the book, ABC.  Rather than use it as a strategy for comprehension, I used it at the end of a set of lessons.  Students had kept track of their big questions & sticky notes then dug back into the text to further explain their thinking.  They had to find a word or phrase for each letter (except Q, X, and Z) and tell how their thinking changed their comprehension while reading.  Students could also include inferences that they made using the Big Questions.  You can grab my resource on my TPT page.

This process not only uncovered misconceptions about our state's history, but it also changed student thinking about a subject and its content.  It brought joy back to a once frowned-upon subject for students.   The activity also forced students to practice their close reading skills as well as listening skills to have meaningful conversations.

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