Learners who focus on comprehension strategies rely on different tools. One of the most popular is the three by three inch sticky note. High school teachers like Cris Tovani and primary teachers such as Debbie Miller write about how they use these little notes in their comprehension work with students. But what adaptions do pre-school and kindergarten teachers need to make in order to use these tools as successfully as teachers who work with older students?
Tools: As a kindergarten teacher, my first challenge was to find larger sticky notes. I knew my students needed more room to create their message with pictures or words and to write their names. I found the four by six inch notes to be the perfect size for my friends in the classroom. I also learned early on that fine-tipped black pens helped students add detail and clarity to their pictures. The pens also allowed the children to include letters, words, drawings and their names within the confines of the paper. Another important tool that I relied on is large easel paper (27″by 34″) for creating our anchor charts.
Getting Ready for Sticky Notes: Before we start to use sticky notes, my students and I use other placeholders for our thinking. For example, long strips of butcher paper laid on the floor offer places for many friends to sit near each other and draw their thinking. Most children have plenty of room to draw their schema for the story we’re studying. (Yes, occasionally someone writes over someone else’s drawing or imaginary boundaries are violated, but in my experience, this is rare.) Students use crayons or markers located in the same tubs we use during writing workshop. After everyone has finished, we use the long posters as discussion starters for how all our experiences connect with the book. These details lay the groundwork for next important step.
Introducing Sticky Notes: Once the children know that their contributions to our community are important, using sticky notes to hold their thinking is a natural transition. Instead of drawing and writing on large butcher paper, they easily transfer their thinking to smaller placeholders: the sticky notes. Typically in November, after we have spent a month digesting and talking about our metacognition, I introduce this tool with schema. On the first day, after intentionally focusing on the schema poster and reading a book aloud to them, I talk about my schema, then write my connection and name on a sticky note. I mount my sticky note on the chart paper I have already labeled with the title of the book and the words “Our Schema.” I verbally–and briefly–explain to the friends what I have placed on the anchor chart. That’s plenty for today.
The next day, we return to the same text. Once again, I frame our thinking around schema and reread the book. Then, I tell the students that it’s their turn to use sticky notes and a special pen to write or draw their connections with the book. I remind them that it is their job to write their name.
Creating Anchor Charts: I wander the room as children work, available to offer gentle support. When a student has finished their sticky note, I move with them to our anchor chart. Because this is reading workshop, not writing workshop, I am committed to serve as scribe, writing each student’s exact words on their sticky note. I ask the student to explain what they have recorded on their note. Occasionally, their verbal explanation and the picture don’t make total sense to me. This is my chance to help a student flesh out connections that may not yet be obvious. During these brief one-on-one conferences, I am careful not to pre-judge a student’s work. Knowing that I may only get to ask one question, I frame my question intentionally and give them time to answer. I wait at the chart for each student to bring me their work. Children who are finished choose books to read or continue writing on other papers. If there is time, and my students have the energy to invest in a whole-class conversation, we will gather and briefly discuss our new anchor chart.
Using the Charts: The primary use of the anchor chart is to hold the whole class’s thinking in poster form. I use this basic format with all the comprehension strategies for the rest of the year, and I allow myself to use the structure creatively if a different structure would serve us better. We can return to a chart when discussing the book on our third or fourth day of the week, or we can seek it out during other times of the day. For example, if it is on a book about trees and we are studying trees in science, we can revisit it to support our study. I also use the chart in parent-teacher conferences and to help me plan the next steps in my teaching. These charts are also wonderful conversation starters with other teaching colleagues.
This video shows my students using sticky notes to respond to a prompt when we are reading The Prince of Butterflies, and how we then use the sticky notes in an anchor chart.