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Stuck on Post-Its

Stone Fox with Post-It notesStill hanging onto their summer tans and beach weather, most people dread that time of year when the big, red “BACK TO SCHOOL” signs appear plastered on the doors of CVS, Staples, and Walgreens. I was never of that ilk; I’ve always loved the opportunity to buy school supplies, and start my year off fresh with crisp notebooks and sharpened pencils. Now, as I walk the aisles of these stores as a new educator, I always make sure to stock up on what is still a relatively new addition to the classroom environment — Post-it notes.

I’m here to present a mini-debate with respect to the Post-it note phenomenon. My school curriculum requires third graders to begin using post it notes during both Read Aloud and Guided Reading groups to make text-to-self and text-to-text connections, relay their predictions, record moments that they can picture vividly in their minds, and jot down any questions that they’d like to bring up later during class discussion. It’s always great fun to see the bursts of neon colored paper scattered inside a well-read text, and we model these comprehension strategies from the very first day of school.

On one hand, I think Post-it annotations are incredibly useful. They require students to use reading comprehension strategies in a natural setting, provide tools in discussion for students who aren’t off-the-bat thinkers, and help set students up for the older grades when annotations and margin-writing become a more integral part of the curriculum. The size of a Post-it note also allows students to use good note-taking skills, and deliver succinct thoughts.

However, the counter argument questions if we are allowing the flurry of capturing our thoughts on paper to get in the way of the pure enjoyment of taking in a story. Stone Fox is the traditional third grade read-aloud for September at the small private school where I teach. As I reached that pivotal, heartbreaking ending, I noticed that some of my students had been so busy trying to reach our “four Post-its” rule by the end of the chapter that they barely reacted to the major event that had occurred in the story. Some teachers would recommend waiting until the end of a chapter to allow students time to write down their thoughts, but what happens if that thought is then forgotten? Some try to find good stopping points to allow Post-it note writing, but is that taking away from the fluidity and natural process of storytelling?

What are your Post-it note guidelines? Have you instituted a limit on the number of Post-it notes used, or does that then take the focus off of “quality vs. quantity”? Do you guide students toward different comprehension strategies when they’ve solely been writing up predictions, or wait for them to naturally progress towards that stage? Do you allow time at the end of the chapter to record Post-it notes, or is there no specific “time” set? Post your thoughts below; I’m eager to see how others establish this classroom routine!

Stacy Tell About Stacy Tell

Stacy Tell received her undergraduate degree in Childhood/Special Education from New York University, and her master’s in Language & Literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is passionate about helping students to become lifelong readers and is currently teaching in a third grade classroom in Weston, Massachusetts.

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