I've been working with my small group friends on comprehension skills. I know, who hasn't been doing that! :-) One of the areas they needed a great deal of help with was monitoring their thinking as they read. They would often just read through without any real understanding of what was happening in the text. Or, they read on thinking they get it, yet when we discuss their reading they have significant misconceptions or have totally missed the important points of the text. They simply did not self-monitor as they read.
To help with this in their independent reading, we have been working on Stop! Think! Jot! It is literally what it says. Stop after reading a certain amount. Think about what you are reading. Do I understand what is going on? Jot down a thought about it.
To begin, we worked on Stop! Think! Jot! as a tool to "check-in" with our mind to make sure we understand the text. The "think" prompt was simply; Do I understand what is going on in this part? Can I retell it in one or two sentences? Those one or two sentences would be the Jot! part. To help with this, I placed sticky notes in strategic spots in their independent reading books. When they hit a sticky note, they had to jot down that one or two sentence retelling. Having to put it in writing really stopped many of my friends in their tracks at first. I would see them start to write, stop, put their pencil down, and go back to reread. This shows me that they really didn't have full comprehension of their reading the first time. Most of my friends have improved tremendously with monitoring their understanding of the text. Most now do it without the prompting of a sticky note.
We then moved on to making connections, asking questions, making predictions, or just noting our thoughts about the book, interesting words, etc. In guided reading, I select the sections we read and where we stop to think and discuss. However, when my friends are doing independent reading, they still need some guidance on when it is time to stop and think. Even at this point in the school year. (insert sigh here) They are getting better, but I still have a select few who will read through the text without ever stopping to think about the text. I know that they are mentally stopping to "check-in" and make sure they understand, but then they just keep going.
Much like I did in the beginning of the year when we worked on monitoring comprehension, I strategically placed sticky notes in their independent reading books reminding them to jot down a thought. I ended up writing a lot of sticky note reminders! Now, I know there are tutorial and templates on how to print on sticky notes. That link will take you to a great post on the blog Ladybug's Teacher Files that shows you just how to do it and includes templates. I think that's great, but I have this fear of jamming my printer. And honestly, I just don't want to print my own sticky notes. If you want to, great! It just wasn't for me, I needed a better way.
I ordered these personalized sticky notes from Vistaprint. Vistaprint allows you to personalize just about anything for very reasonable prices. The pic is a little fuzzy because I took it off a screen shot of my order form.
This might be a good time to point out that while I do place these sticky notes in their books, it's important to just do a few. My main goal is that they read with understanding. If I overload their book with sticky notes it becomes more of a writing assignment. It also steals some of the joy of reading.
When I worked with my enrichment students, they would actually Stop! Think! Jot! to death. I have had some of my lower ability students do this as well. Their books would look like a peacock in full plumage with sticky notes bursting out. For them, one of the big lessons I would always do revolved around the idea that when everything is important, nothing is important. However, some of my friends this year still need the prompting that sticky notes placed by the teacher provides.
I love that Vistaprint allows you to personalize so many different things. In the past, I have ordered thank you cards for my classroom, punch cards for rewards, and more. In fact, with my sticky note order I also got something fun and motivating for my friends that I will share in another post. By the way, Vistaprint is in no way sponsoring this post. They don't even know I exist other than to bill me and send me the goodies I order! :-)