Imagine you walked into my classroom and I handed you a yellow sticky note.
You took the sticky note but wondered what I was going to ask you to do next …
I asked you to put the sticky note on the wall
Even when you asked me how high or where, I repeated my direction to put the sticky note on the wall
So you followed my direction and put the sticky note on the wall
You still were not too sure what this possibly crazy teacher was really asking for you to do …
After you and your classrmates all sat down, I put a purple sticky note on the table or desk in front of each of you.
I asked you this time to place the purple sticky note as high on the wall as you could.
Some of students sat and thought about what to do while others quickly stood up and followed my instruction.
You may have asked me if you could jump or stand on something. I answered by repeating my initial instruction to put the purple sticky note as high on the wall as you could.
Once you followed that instruction, you sat down.
When the whole class was seated, we just looked at the yellow and purple sticky notes on the wall fo a minute.
That’s when I started asking questions!
How did you decide where to put your yellow sticky note?
Did that require much thinking?
Most of you just simply walked over to the wall and stuck the sticky note on it. You didn’t really pay attention to the placement of the sticky note. You just did it to get it done.
Now look at your purple sticky note
How did you decide where to put it?
What did you do to put your sticky note as high as you could?
Did anybody jump?
Did anyone stand on their tiptoes?
Did anyone ask someone else to help them?
Did anyone lean against the wall and stretch?
How much thinking did the placement of the purple sticky note require?
What kind of thinking do you think you should do in this class?
Yellow or Purple Sticky Note Thinking?
When I started meeting with groups of students this year, the scenario above is how I started class. I saw an activity similar to this done with teachers at a training a few years ago and used that as my inspiration.
So far the purple and yellow sticky notes are still on the walls as a visual reminder (except for a few that have fallen).
Instead of reminding students to work harder and do their best, I ask what color sticky note is the thinking that went into the assignment or answer to the question or even just poing to the sticky notes on the wall.
At times, I just say Purple Sticky Note …
And they know what that means!
Have you ever noticed how much more productive you are when you are motivated and/or interested in what you are doing?
As a way to work towards our school system goals of all students reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade as well as increasing the graduation rate, something needs to be done to motivate students when it comes to literacy… and it needs to be more than just assigning students books to read, summaries to write, tests to take, and book reports to construct.
Sports play a major role in the lives of many of our students. For example, I may not be able to get a student to tell me what he or she read last night but depending on the season, I can find out all kinds of information about football, basketball, or baseball games (local, college, or professional). Student interest and excitement is a motivator that I don’t mind taking advantage of for reaching literacy goals … and sports just might be the way to do it!
Think about your favorite sport.
Where is it played? Who plays it? How is it played? What is the history of that sport? What is the future of the sport? How could it be changed to be better?
I bet you can think of a million other questions like this …
Those are not simple YES or NO questions, so we have to do more to find the answers …
How can we find out the answers to those questions?
We could do some research …
I am not talking about the research in a dark library stack shuffling through dusty books … unless you enjoy that
Think about all the ways we can do research today …
I predict your mind went immediately to the internet as a source of knowledge, and while that may be a possibility, one must remember that not everything you find on the internet comes from a reliable source …
Which is a great way to bring in some conversations about digital literacy and verifying the information found by analyzing sources …
Sounds like some higher order thinking skills to me …
Research can also be done by writing letter of request after you find out who would be best to contact, how to contact, and what you should request …
Don’t forget about the books and magazines that can serve as primary and secondary source documents …
Students would have to figure out how to analyze those too …
So let’s say we gather our research and compile what we have learned to construct answers for our initial questions, now that we have all these answers, what are we going to do?
Should we keep this knowledge to ourselves?
Or figure out way to share it ….
Do we write a question and answer sheet to give to one person?
Do we create a blog or website to share what we have learned with a wider audience?
Or can we come up with a totally new way to unveil our findings and share our share our opinions?
I see lots of opportunities for:
identifying key details
exploring explicit and inferred meaning
primary source analysis
compare and contrast
setting goals and priorities
higher order thinking skills
speaking and listening
writing various genres
writing opinion pieces
developing informative and explanatory text pieces
creating multimedia projects
“Motivation matters; it it’s real, it motivates brains to engage” ~Carole Marsh
The idea of a Sports-themed Book club exploring many literacy skills has been bouncing around in my mind since I attended NCCAT this summer. This could be a way to reach and motivate reluctant readers …
Today is the first day of class!
And you are not the only one who is excited and nervous …
We both have new people to meet as well as friends to greet.
Just as we hope that you will use the things you learned last year as a basis for what we will do this year, my mind is racing remembering and reflecting on the things I have learned in the past to make this a great school year for you!
You had a teacher last year and you have a teacher this year, and while they may share some qualities, each one of us is unique. I bet that you are not exactly the same at the beginning of this school year as you were at the beginning of last school year.
And you know what … I am not either!
So let’s work together to figure out how to make this year the best it can be!
We are both going to make some mistakes, some big and some small … hopefully more small ones than big ones.
Let’s see those mistakes and times of frustration as opportunities for learning and not prompts for a major meltdown (I think I might be talking more to myself on this one …).
We have a chance to do some really great things this year!
I hope we are not afraid to ask questions when we don’t understand …
And to let curiosity and wonder lead our learning journeys!
I look forward to seeing you each day and bringing my best to help you have an awesome year!
Working at three schools each week gives me a chance to try different types of reader response activities with a wide variety of students!
The students I worked with this time were not all reading the same book, and I wanted to get an idea of where students were in the book … if they had started yet (since some chose not to read over Spring Break).
Like I have written before, I wanted to know more than just a page number. And there are different ways to express information about a book other than just writing a summary …
Different learning styles?
So I took a chance (but it was really the thinking process and the book conversations after the fact that mattered the most)
So here were the options I gave students:
Draw a picture the main character would take of an event that has happened in what you have read so far (ex. for a facebook or instagram post)
Create a selfie of the main character
Develop an image of a prediction you have about the story (if you haven’t started reading yet)
I watched as students brainstormed and then started creatiing. I did not go into this activity as a way to encourage and support the 4Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking Skills, Communication, and Collaboration) but I could see examples of the 4Cs while students were working. I began to wonder if it is all about creating the right environment for those skills to flouriish?
But that is another blog post …
So we had a learing conversation (reflection time) at the end of class and discussed these questions:
- How did you choose which type of picture to create?
How/Why did you choose the details to include?
I took notes on the discussion and here are a few of the comments I captured:
- “I used evidence from the book cover when drawing prediction and decided to draw what I thought might be the setting”
- “My picture is of a kid doing a lot of homework. He has a large pile of homework papers on his desk which was the reason for the HW machine.”
- “This is when they discover the homework machine is real. I think that is an important part of story.”
- “I did a selfie because I really liked the character.”
- “I also did a selfie and included some details from the book in the picture. It is not just what she looked like but some of the things the book said she found or did.”
- “I picked to do an event in book. This was very descriptive in the book so I chose to draw that part.”
- “I did a selfie because he is main character.”
So not only did I have the images my students created but also was able to listen in on conversations about why students chose to create those images. I was able to not only figure out where students were in reading the book but also a little but about what they knew about story elements!
At one time, I thought, I should have students write down why they made that choice, but I have found that I get more authentic answers when we just talk!
And students like to talk …