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Using post it notes for reading comprehension in the upper elementary classroom is such a simple, yet powerful teaching strategy.

Aside from the usual use of a sticky note as a bookmark…

Using post it notes for reading comprehension serves as a scaffolding technique for growing readers.

Here’s a quick overview of how you can use sticky notes with your kiddos to aid in their reading comprehension:

  1. Jot down thinking during a read aloud (teacher).
  2. Assess students’ prior knowledge.
  3. Jot down thinking strategies and processes (students).
  4. Contribute information to anchor charts.
  5. Informally assess what students learned.
  6. Have students record lingering questions and predictions.
  7. Use as think marks!

I go into more detail about each one further on in this post.

As a side note though, you’ve got to be careful! Too many post-its is overkill and counterproductive!

I know. I know.

If learning is happening, HOORAY! That’s what we want.

We should always encourage kids to use sticky notes to guide their reading comprehension even if that means a bit of organized chaos.

What’s most important is that the end goal is being met.

On the contrary, some students need a little help in being “mindful” about how to use sticky notes effectively and efficiently while reading.

In this post, I share strategies for using post it notes effectively and efficiently for reading comprehension.

These simple, yet powerful instructional techniques are divided into before reading, during reading, and after reading strategies.

Using Post It Notes for Reading Comprehension: Before Reading Strategies

1. As a Teacher, Jot Down Your Thoughts During a Read Aloud.

A staple of readers’ workshop is the read aloud.

Before sharing a read aloud with students, make sure you’ve gone through the book and placed post-it notes on all teaching points that you plan to discuss with them.

Strategically place the sticky notes throughout the book as signals to show when you need to stop, “think aloud”, and discuss with students the targeted reading comprehension strategy.

On each post-it, you’ll have your “think aloud” or relevant teaching point.

Now, you may be thinking…

If teachers are doing the reading, how does this strategy help students with their reading comprehension?

The answer to that question is the power of modeling.

For students to use post it notes for reading comprehension in a meaningful way, it’s important to SHOW them HOW to do so by modeling our reading and thinking processes.

Read aloud time does just this.

As an example, when students are practicing a reader’s theater, it is teacher modeling via read alouds of the script that guide students in reciting the scripts with accurate expression, appropriate intonation, etc.

The sticky notes serve as a way for students to see what conversations and type of thinking are going on inside of our heads as we read a book or piece of text.

The importance of young readers observing and hearing models of good reading and thinking can’t be emphasized enough.

This type of scaffolding supports them as they apply the same reading strategies during independent reading.

So during read aloud, use post-its to help set the expectations of good reading comprehension thinking behaviors!

2. Assess Students’ Prior Knowledge.

If you want to quickly assess what students already know about a topic, skill, or strategy, have them record their prior knowledge on a post-it note.

Afterwards, have students place their post-its on a whole-class KWL anchor chart.

Or you may just want to collect the sticky notes and review them later, on your own time.

Using sticky notes, you’ll quickly see what your kiddos already know about a particular topic. That information guides your planning and instruction.

Teachers tend to gather prior knowledge from learners orally (“Who can tell me what he/she knows about…” or “Where have you seen or heard…?).

Because of this, assessing prior knowledge using sticky notes is beneficial to visual-spatial learners who may instead prefer to quickly sketch or use some sort of symbols to demonstrate what they already know.

Using Post It Notes for Reading Comprehension: During Reading Strategies

3. Jot Down Connections, Questions, Evidence, or Reading Strategies.

As students read independently or with peers (think literature circles!), they use post-it notes to write down any meaningful connections they have with the characters, setting, plot, themes, etc.

They can also use post-its to record any questions they have about the text such as confusing vocabulary words or confusing parts of the story.

If making inferences, evidence to support those inferences can be written on post-its.

And let’s not forget evidence to support an author’s purpose for writing!

THINK MARKS are Perfect for Guiding Students in Recording Their Thoughts!

Here’s a reference you may want to use to guide students:

Furthermore, whatever specific reading strategy or skilled is targeted, students can record or sketch evidence of their application of said skill/strategy on a post-it.

During teacher-student conferencing, sticky notes with students’ connections, questions, evidence, and/or applied reading strategies help guide the discussion.

This is great anecdotal evidence for you! 😉

  4. Anchor Charts

When used properly, anchor charts are effective instructional tools that aid in reinforcing skills or procedures.

If you already use anchor charts in your classroom but want simple ideas for making them even more valuable for students’ learning, check out this post on making anchor charts that students actually use.

So, how exactly do anchor charts and post-it notes improve students’ reading comprehension?

For skills, procedures, or learning tools covered or referred to often throughout the school year (such as reading strategies, graphic organizers, and readers’ workshop procedures), make anchor chart templates.

For example, you could make a chart with a Venn Diagram (or any other type of graphic organizer).

Students write one or two comparisons and contrasts on separate post-it notes.  They then place those sticky notes on the appropriate section of the Venn Diagram.

For those of you who are sticklers for keeping your anchor charts beautiful, this strategy will help you out a bit as your kiddos won’t have to write directly on the chart.

Using post it notes for reading comprehension via the use of anchor charts allows students to observe and learn from their peers’ thinking because the work is on public display.

This is another opportunity for them to learn from each other.

Using Post It Notes for Reading Comprehension: After Reading Strategies

5. Informal Assessments

How can we quickly determine if a student grasped the targeted concept of the lesson?

To see what learners took away from the lesson, ask them to write one reading strategy on a post-it that they used during independent reading.

Or have them note a vocabulary word or multiple-meaning word that they figured out using context clues.

These are just a few of the many ideas that you can use sticky notes to informally assess students’ understanding of a reading selection.

A Simple Idea for Using Post It Notes to Aid Reading Comprehension

Additionally, these informal assessment post-its can be used as exit tickets.

Assessing students’ reading comprehension take-aways using post-it notes is quite simple as you can see!

6. Lingering Questions/Predictions

At the end of it all, students may still have questions about the learning, whether that be a specific skill, strategy, or something related to the content.

Ask learners, “What’s one question you still have about the lesson?” “What do you still want to know?” Have them record the question(s) on a post-it.

Open-ended questions work well for non-fiction texts.

Last but not least, ask students to jot down what they predict will happen next in a particular story. It could be from the read aloud book or an independent reading book.

Bonus Tip: Using Sticky Notes to Scaffold Writing! 

As students read independently or with classmates, encourage them to note any writing elements or techniques that they like from the books they’re reading.

Because writing and reading are interconnected, you may even want to highlight a specific writing strategy during your read aloud, especially if it aligns well with the reading objective.

Have students save these post-its for the writers’ workshop block.

During independent writing, the post-its will serve as a bank of writing strategies/skills that the young authors can apply to their own writing!

This strategy works wonders and is a seamless way to integrate the six traits of writing elements.

It’s also great for extending the learning for your advanced readers and writers.

Getting Started with Using Post It Notes for Reading Comprehension

If all of this seems too overwhelming, start off simple.

My go-to is the 7 thinking strategies:

  • Determining Importance
  • Monitoring for Meaning
  • Making Connections
  • Questioning
  • Visualizing
  • Inferring
  • Synthesizing

These strategies form the core of strong reading comprehension.

Implement those THINK MARKS mentioned earlier and have students use the templates to document any of the 7 thinking strategies they experience when reading.

Here’s where you can learn more about the 7 reading thinking strategies. They are truly powerful and easily used across grade levels and subject areas.

Wrapping Up

These simple strategies make using post it notes for reading comprehension a cinch!

I hope this post helped you plan a bit smarter and not harder!

Happy Teaching & Learning,

~Missi

WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?

  • One of the 7 thinking strategies for reading comprehension is questioning. The Prove It reading strategy will take your reading instruction to the next level by having your students analyze (and respond strategically) to various levels of questions!
  • Anticipation guides are pre-reading graphic organizers that HOOK your readers and actively engage them throughout the lesson. No more uninterested readers!

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