Of all the PD books I read this summer, Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading was the one book I made a point to re-read before the school year began. Like Mosaic of Thought, this was a book that made me re-think the way I taught reading strategies, especially at the very beginning of the school year. This summer, I blogged about what I’d learned and how I hoped to approach the new school year armed with the sign posts and all the thoughtful reading possibilities they signified. Each new YA book I read over the summer was another opportunity to practice the sign posts – sometimes this went well, and sometimes I struggled. Sometimes, I felt that the sign posts were making me slow down and read in a more thoughtful way, and sometimes I felt that my pauses were artificial – that I was stopping just becasue I felt that I had to rather than because there was something meaningful that the author wished for me to gain from closer reading. Either way, I knew that each experience would help me guide my sixth graders once the school year began.
Practicing helped me understand that not every chapter came with its own sign post – and that it was quite possible to become so focused on the hunt for possible sign posts that I lost the thread of the story, or even interest in the way the characters were developed. Worse, I could see how this process could be reduced to worksheets and homework assignments: “read four chapters and use the worksheet to identify the six Notice and Note Signposts.” Ugh!!! Practicing helped me rehearse my thinking, so that my modeling would be intentional, and my teaching points crystal clear.
It appeared to me that chapters 4 and 5 were at the heart of what Kylene Beers and Robert Probst were getting at in identifying places where we can notice, pause, reflect and deepen our understanding of the text. Here’s the part I starred, underlined and dogeared for reference:
“…we are trying to instill some reading habits and shape a pattern of reading behaviors in our students. We want to teach our students to be alert for certain features as they read, to take responsibility themselves for pausing and reflecting when they spot them, to own and ask a few potentially powerful questions at those moments, and to be willing to share and revise their thoughts in responsible conversation with others…We need to keep reminding the students, explicitly, what we are asking them to do – notice, pause, reflect. And we need to make sure that the language we use doesn’t just help them learn more about any one particular text but is generalizable to others.“
With those last two sentences in mind, I began our first read aloud of the year with a book my kids have loved – Priscilla Cummings’ Red Kayak. I thought that reaching for a book I knew so well would help me to be much more focused and deliberate when I introduced each signpost. And, having read the book so often, I knew exactly where each signpost would appear and the order in which I would have to teach them. Best of all, each signpost appeared more than once in this particular story – so there would be opportunities to see if my students could begin to take responsibility themselves to notice and note.
Our anchor charts were there to help us, of course (and these were so much fun to make over the summer – I do love anchor charts!):
The sign posts helped some of my weakest readers, the ones who read on a surface level, to become much more aware of character development, conflict, the relationships between characters, and so on. I think this was the best part of the whole experience for me – seeing those light bulbs go off in the most unexpected places. My students moved this thinking work from our class read aloud to their independent reading books as well, and their reading journal responses were to write long from any signposts they happened to note. This turned out to be a great way to see if my kids were able to transfer what they’d learned to their independent reading, and for me to use our reading conferences to clarify and revisit ou
And now we move onto our first book clubs of the year. My hope is that all the work we’ve done to notice, pause, and reflect as we read Red Kayak together will pay off in rich reading experiences, and rich discussions. I feel we’re off to a great start in our reading year.
I’d love to learn how other teachers have introduced the signposts in their classrooms. Please leave a comment and share what you do!