I have been a long time user of Post-It note annotations during reading. In fact, I've written posts, like this one and this one, where I mention using them. However, the nature of teaching is that we continue to learn, grow, reflect, and change our methods and instruction for the better. That's sort of where I am now with Post-It note (which I usually refer to as sticky notes) annotations. I think we are parting ways when it comes to independent reading.
I have to be honest and share my teacher fail here. I had done all the right things in implementing this. We did lessons on what was worth writing a sticky note, the different types of things they could write a note about, etc. We practiced it in guided reading groups, I modeled it many, many times. However, it just didn't seem to stick (pardon the pun!) for many of my students. Oh, there were a handful that got it and did well, but many seemed to struggle with using them in a way that helped them as readers.
So, I tried to fix the problem. When I noticed the friends that would sticky note almost every page, we had one to one lessons reviewing their notes and learning why some were good while others were just filler. We revisited the lesson on "sticky worthy" events. I had many frustrated days conferencing and reteaching with some friends that wouldn't write any sticky notes at all because, despite my exhaustive lessons, custom sticky notes with prompts, and the anchor charts hanging in the room, they would say they didn't know what to write.
I knew it was time to rethink this. How effective was having my students use sticky notes during independent reading? Was it working? In a word, no. It wasn't working for enough of my students that I could say it was effective. And, what really were my ultimate goals for my students? I wanted my friends reading. I wanted then to be immersed in a book they enjoyed. I wanted them to have sustained reading time, to be excited about reading and talking about books with their friends. What I had done by enforcing sticky notes was getting in the way of all of that. My students are children reading 1-2 years below grade level. Reading has been a struggle for them and not something they consider enjoyable. I was just making it more like work than the joy I know it could be for them.
Then, I thought about myself as a reader. I read. I read a lot! And, I rarely stop to jot a note when I'm reading fiction. Instead, I let myself be immersed in and carried away by the story. I live the events with the characters and become invested in what they do. I "feel" the book; laughing, crying, worrying, wondering, anticipating as the text pulls me in. This is what I want for my students. When reading nonfiction, I generally don't annotate unless I have a purpose of using the information in some way. For my students, this would be if they were working on a research project or found some information so interesting they wanted to share it with a friend later. But, what would be my purpose in forcing them to write Post-It notes on a nonfiction book they were reading for enjoyment?
The last two months of school, I decided to give it a shot and abandon sticky notes. Here's what I noticed immediately. My friends spent more time reading. Their enjoyment of reading increased. My most reluctant readers were no longer fake reading or complaining about having to read. They were talking more to each other about the books they were reading. They were spontaneously coming to me to talk about an interesting or funny part of their book. All those goals I had for my students were happening!
This September, I will not be using Post-It notes during independent reading. That's not to say I won't be using them at all. Post-Its definitely have their place in the classroom. We use them a lot during guided reading. They are perfect for jotting down an answer, a great spot for a student to jot down something they want to share, something they notice, etc. I will sometimes prewrite individual questions on them to differentiate for my students. There are a million places where they work well. I just no longer think independent reading is one of those places.
But, I do have to have something in place. My district is all about accountability, so as much as I would like to set my friends free to go read and just enjoy their books, there needs to be more to it. Because I have my notes from student conferences, goal setting, and lesson observations, I knew I could keep this fairly short and simple. Currently, I am thinking of having the kids do a single response when they finish a book. I plan on calling it Just One Thing! where students have a chance to share just one thing about the book they read. It can be a book review, something in the book events they want to comment on, etc. The point is they just have to say one thing about the book and it can be as detailed or as simple as they are capable of constructing at the time. This allows them to read without interruption or worry about writing Post-It notes.
Originally, I thought I would provide them with small, soft cove notebooks where they could write and I could respond. But, then I realized this would be perfect for technology integration. In the past, I've done a class blog where the kids responded to our read alouds. It worked out so well. They commented on each others post and had real conversations about the books. I am leaning toward using a blog again for this. A couple of suggestions from Instagram were to use Edmodo or My Big Campus. I am not super familiar with those sites, but I plan to check them out over the summer.
So, that's where things stand now. I would love to know your thoughts. What are you doing with independent reading? Are you using sticky notes or have you found another way? Any suggestions?