When students are taught to take notes related to text, they are reflecting on what they are reading. This reflection creates learning. My second graders are new to the idea of note taking. So, I must take them to the very first step and give them lots of modeling. Second graders are at an age that requires concrete examples to teach the abstract concepts. I simplify the note taking process by using tactile objects such as post it sticky notes and an activity that gives a clear focus.
The first reading focuses on being an active reader. Students are asked to post sticky notes on any part of the text by marking as follows:
? means anything you find puzzling.
+ means anything you find important
! means anything you feel strongly about.
In order to clarify instruction, I model by reading a short excerpt from a passage of the story I am reading: The Fisherman and His Wife. I read the passage under my document camera and model how I stick on notes that meet the above criteria. We discuss the importance of citing text to answer questions. This process is considered backward planning because we start with the text and form questions to sections of text we find puzzling. Ultimately, this process leads us back to the text to gather more evidence in order to answer the questions. Delving deeper into the text for answers develops a new level of understanding.
Then, I distribute the following materials to each student:
Post its sticky notes, copy of the book, pencils. I ask them to read the story silently and mark the areas of text as I have directed above.
At the end of this activity, I review student sticky notes with them to ensure that the above criteria are met. The quality of student sticky notes allow me to gauge their level of understanding of the text. The notes also provide me with a window to their thinking process.
During the second reading, I ask students to focus on the parts of the story they marked as puzzling and/or important. I ask student to elaborate and cite examples from text that cause them to have the reactions they marked. The second reading asks students to be more detailed in their note taking. The second reading leads students to delve even deeper into the text because they have to search for more details in order to elaborate on areas they find puzzling or important. In other words, students must cite examples from text in their questions in order to develop more specific questions.
Again, I model using the same excerpt from the story: The Fisherman and his Wife. This time, I chose a different color post it sticky note so that I can see the difference between the vague notes I took during my first reading and the detailed notes I am taking for this second reading.
For example, during my first reading, I marked: ? "Fisherman's wife never happy" During my second reading, I elaborate by adding details cited from text: ? " Why does the fisherman's wife always asks for more than what she already has? First she wants a cottage, then castle, then kingdom. It never ends."
Then, I distribute a different color post it sticky notes and ask students to re-read the story to fine tune their notes from the first reading. I walk around to observe what students are writing and assist as needed.
I like to close this lesson by sharing examples of the notes students created. First, I ask a student to share his notes as related to the text with other students by placing his book, marked with sticky notes, under the document camera. This way, his work is projected to share with others as he discusses his findings.
Students take turns sharing their note taking with others. I ask students why they were asked to use post its to note take. Answers varied from "not destroying your book by writing all over it", "remembering where it was in the book you had an idea", and "there is just enough space to write on a post it than the side of the pages." Then, I tell students that they have given me more ideas about the effectiveness of using post its for note taking, but my first intention was so that students can show their thinking and remember parts of the story that stands out to them.
EXIT SLIPS: Last, I ask students to write a reflection on notebook paper about this lesson. I use a variety of Exit Slips to obtain student reflection on my lessons so I can tweak it to their interest and make my lessons more engaging. The notebook paper is the easiest way once thy understand what a reflection piece is. Students are ask to write about what they thoughts was most effective, what they found confusing, and suggestions to improve my lesson. I use their reflections to tweak my lessons and often use their suggestions on how to improve the lesson.