Notice and Note: working with the signposts in our classroom.

     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!):

And we learned to keep track of the elements of a story, as well: 
My students kept track of the story in their reading journals, marking their noticings and using these for quick turn and talks or whole class discussions:
   
 
 

     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!

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5 thoughts on “Notice and Note: working with the signposts in our classroom.

  1. I wish others had written Tara. I'd like to see what they say, too. I enjoyed your pieces shared from Notice and Note. I have the book, & will at least find time for the chapters you mentioned. We just talked about this in my meeting with teachers of the oldest students yesterday. It's tough to see how to connect to all the students who are in such different places in their reading abilities. I like your charts, and might consider making smaller ones to carry with me as I confer with individuals or small groups. When I do small book groups, I tend to focus on one thing at a time to notice, then move to another. There is a lot to include. thanks for this!

  2. I do, too, Linda, especially since this has been a much read post , apparently. I'd love to know what teachers are doing with Notice and Note in their individual classrooms. It's such a wise book! On to "Falling in Love With Close Reading" next.

  3. I have been trying to work this in to my teaching this year. Honestly, this year has been kind of a mess for me! I'm trying to fit four different subjects into a ~2.5 hour block. One of the things that stood out to me in reading this book and they said some of these initial lessons would take ~40 minutes. The hardest thing is that I'm teaching a new grade level, so the material is new to me, and I find the first time I teach things, it takes me longer. We'll see how it goes with my class.My grade does one switch during the day, and I have the "average" readers. We just started last week, and I am making these sign posts my focus. So far, I've gotten through the first two. (We meet three times a week for about 35-40 minutes). One thing I have noticed is they are having a very difficult time with the answering the questions, I think because they can't do a basic retell of the story. I'm thinking I might finish introducing the last four signposts then move to a short piece that has at least a few examples. We'll read the piece together, I'll stop and have them write a quick retell, work on that, then look for some signposts? I just don't want this to become a search and find for these 6 signs. I want it to be more natural!!Hmmmm hmmmm hmmm!

  4. I think any work with analysis of a text has to be based on the abiluty to do recall and summarization. To me, that indicates that the student is able to actually comprehend the story and differentiate important events witin the narrative. I went with a readaloud novel that I was very familiar with, so that I could plot along the order in which I was going to teach the signposts – it is much more natural and organic that way, I think, than a series of different stories for each signpost. I taught each signpost on a differerent day, but we always arced back to previously taught signposts as they continued to occur in the text. This was a great way to review, I found. Each lesson took no more than 20 minutes – Introduce, read, identify, model the thought process, discuss a bit, then move on. We reviewed constantly as we read through the book, because they kept cropping up. Now, my kids are beginning book clubs – another chance to practice independence. You are so right not to want this to become a search and find – worksheets for this are already available online, and I shudder to think of Notice and Note being used this way – what a waste!

  5. Thanks for your thoughts! I find I keep writing responses, then deleting and starting over. I think at this point, I will just say your post was very timely. I think I got so excited to start these, I completely skipped over making sure they had the ability to retell (much less summarize!). But, I do usually tend to learn lessons the hard way. I can't believe there are already worksheets for these! Actually, I guess I can…

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