Introducing the Post-It Annotation Process
Lesson 3 of 6
Objective: Students will learn how to use Post-It notes to annotate the novel they have been assigned.
I start this lesson with a quick writing activity. When they arrive, they are expected to write for 3 minutes without stopping, in response to the following prompt:
When you read a novel for school, what is your process for keeping track of information, action, characters, etc.? If you do not have a process, write about why that is, or consider what you think might be an effective process.
After the timer goes off, I have the students share their writing with a partner in their table groups. If there is a table of three, they can all three work together, but will need to move a bit more quickly.
This allows them to have their feelings and thoughts heard and validated, while providing them with a certain level of comfort that comes with sharing in small groups.
In all honesty, most of the students, each class period, each year, share similar information with one another to the effect of having little or no structure to their reading that is consistent from one book to another or one class to another. They share that they simply comply with the process and expectations of that particular teacher at that time, if they do the work at all. It is a culture of non-engagement that I work very hard to change, one student at a time.
There are many teachers and students alike who use sticky notes to do some form of annotation as they read. Some are simply preserving the novel as they find it hard to "deface" it. Others use it in order to easily keep track of notes they take, through processes like color coding and/or positioning. As a learner, I have found this process to be very useful, and as a teacher, I have seen kids demonstrate much success when using this process in a way that is meaningful to them individually.
My students have practiced annotation with various texts. They have worked to analyze elements of the story, make connections, and more. My desire is to connect each of the discussion roles with the annotation process. Ideally, students will use the roles as one of the guiding factors in their annotating, and not just their upcoming role. Even if a student is only annotating with sticky notes, focused on the role they have coming up, they are still likely doing more note taking than they would have done otherwise. Based on the discussions I hear each year with this lesson's quick write, a vast majority of kids have not been previously annotating when reading novels for classes.
I use this time to facilitate a think-aloud session where students talk about how and why using sticky notes to annotate can be effectively implemented. I show them a few interpretations, focused on color coding as well as positioning. Throughout my demos, I really make an effort to sell how helpful each process is, the potential benefits associated with it, in hopes that at least some of the kids will get pumped to try it. I conclude this portion of the lesson by sharing with the students that they should consider these annotations as being the participation portion of the grade for the unit. I never do this, so it is a little teacher fib. By the time we get to the second lit circle discussion, a majority of the kids have forgotten all about the grade and are just doing it because they are seeing benefit already.
The next step in this lesson is for each of the kids to glue their calendar and discussion role assignments into their ISNs.
After that, I give the remainder of the class period to them to begin reading, if they haven't already. Those kids who started already are asked to go back am make some annotations for the portions they have read, and then continue reading.
During this time, I move throughout the room and touch base with each student to get an idea of their overall comfort level with this new process. The most common concern/question I hear is that students want further information about the potential pros and cons of each method of post-it annotating. While there is no singular best way, in my opinion, I try to get the kids to think about how they learn best and then apply that to the processes to make an educated decision as to which way they will proceed. I have found that many kids simply want to be told what to do so they can just get on with it, but this is not beneficial in the long run, so I don't play that game. I ask the kids to tell me what works for them and doesn't, or what they think could or wouldn't work. I then ask them to make up their own minds and give it their best effort.