Post-it notes

Finding a Path into Poetry with Annotations, FSLL Charts, and Poetry Chats

Last week  (April 17) we began our exploration of poetry with an inquiry-oriented warm-up.  I presented students two documents:

  • An annotated copy of “Alone” by Maya Angelou (annotations by me)
  • A FSLL (Feelings, Story, Language, and Lines) that I had completed for “Alone” by Maya Angelou.

Students could work alone or with a partner to record their noticings about the annotation strategies evident on the poem; they also recorded their noticings about the kinds of elements discussed in the FSLL chart.   They also got to talk about any overalap they saw between the two.  Once students had recorded these noticings, we shared out to the whole class.

The next day, we engaged in a class reading of “Every Day” by Naomi Shihab Nye; this poem is part of a collection in her book A Maze Me:  Poems for Girls, a longtime favorite of mine.  Students practiced annotation the poem and working on their FSLL charts for the “Every Day”; students also had the opportunity to share their work with a partner.

My two “accelerated” classes also had the opportunity to complete a sticky note lit analysis jigsaw by finding two metaphors and one symbol in the poem.  Students had the opportunity to identify the literary element, draw a sketchnote to represent what they saw in their minds when they read those lines, and to write a short explanation of the literary element and how it contributed to the overall message or meaning of the poem.

This past week we engaged in poetry chats to generate conversation and share our thinking about the poem.  I did two variations of the poetry chat:  one version was set up like a timed station rotation, and the other was structured more like table talk with a large class share.

With the station rotation version, we did timed stations in which students wrote their responses on butcher paper.  This pretty much took the entire class period and is a great option when you have the luxury of time.  On Day 2, each group was assigned the task of reading over the responses and generating a 3-2-1 reflection to share with the whole class:

Students received a performance assessment grade for their poster presentation and a separate grade for the written poster (content, response to the writing/thinking directions).

A quicker version that is also meaningful is to assign a question prompt to each table group and let them brainstorm their responses on a large sticky note to to then share out to the whole class.  Though they don’t get the benefit of the silent “write around” and seeing the thinking of an entire class like the longer version,  this version still engages student in teamwork and critical though as well as an opportunity to speak to the entire class.  I used the same prompts for both variations of poetry chat, and I also provided supporting notes on any literary elements I felt might be helpful for students.  You will note my question prompts say “silent” because originally I had planned for each class to do the silent write-around part first, but as many of you know, time is at a premium right now, and I was not able to do it with three sections due to time constraints.

We are on the eve of state Milestones testing here, but we’ll continue to read poems and analyze them using the FSLL strategies/question prompts to annotate and think about poems.  Our next steps will be to take our charts to the next level with 11×17 posters, so stay tuned for a new post on that in May!

Annotation Conferences as Formative Assessment

We are racing toward the end of the year, and my juniors have been working hard between their prep work for our first American lit book club meeting tomorrow (for A day classes) and Friday (for B day classes) and our state End of Course testing.  About 10 days ago, we revisited two sets of annotation strategies we have used all year:

I also introduced fiction signposts from Bob Probst and Kylene Beers; I am using this beautiful interpretation/version crafted by the amazing Julie Swinehart.  We came up with shortcut codes of CC, Aha!, TQ, WW, AA, and MM.  I also modeled sample annotations for students in all classes.

For our American Lit book club project (blog post way overdue and coming soon!), my juniors participated in a book tasting of five texts:  Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Raisin in the Sun, and Our Town.  I’ll write more about the book selection process, but in a nutshell, nearly everyone got his/her first choice, and I developed reading schedules for each text around our testing calendar to balance testing days with in-class time for reading and prep work for the first book club meetings.

One of the requirements for the first round of reading is for students to craft at least 10 high quality annotations; students can do more for bonus points, but 10 is the minimum for this first reading round.  Students must do the following with their annotations:

  1.  Include a shortcut code or text symbol
  2. Write at least one complete sentence
  3. Use any combination of the three strategy sets (and students could also craft their own additional codes if needed).
  4. Craft meaningful annotations to help them be reflective and active readers.

I provided a multitude of Post-It notes in a diverse range of colors, sizes, and styles to meet everyone’s needs (yes, I bought these with my own money, but monitor Amazon for great sales on Post-It notes!).  With our mini-lesson and supplies at hand, students jumped right into their work:

This week I have been conferencing with students 1:1 about their annotation work.  The procedure is very simple:  I have a chair next to my desk, students come over for a conference when ready (and sign up on the board if we get busy with a waiting list), we sit side by side, and we spend 7-10 minutes chatting about their annotations.  These conferences are reveal much about students’ thinking and questions about the text, and the annotations provide us some quick talking points for me to get an idea about the student and how he/she is progressing with engagement and understanding of the book.  The concept sounds so simple, but I have learned so much about my juniors as readers, thinkers, and individuals this week in a short time; these conferences, though brief, are incredibly insightful much like a writing conference.

Though the conferences do take up time, I highly encourage you to try them with your students!  Here is a sampler of work from all levels of 11th English–I have been impressed by the intellectual and emotional investment my students have put into their work.  The effort and quality of work is even more impressive considering the high stakes testing that is happening on any given day right now!  I know this work is helping them with their book club meeting prep graphic organizer (I’ll share in my next blog post) and will be the fuel for rich book club discussions tomorrow and Friday.

 

Before and After Reading Macbeth: From Write-Around to a Post-It Note Gallery Walk Around Provocative Statements

In early January, my seniors participated in a write-around as a modified anticipation guide to introduce themes of Macbeth with a series of 10 provocative statements.  At the end of the write-around, students received a copy of all 10 statements and were asked to do some written reflections on those statements.  We finished Macbeth last Friday, so I wanted a way for students to revisit those students invidually and collaboratively.

I held onto to that work until this past Monday when I returned them to the students.  Each student received a set of 10 colored/lined sticky notes and was asked to do the following:

Students were required to include their names on their work and to provide textual evidence to support their responses.  Monday is our “skinny” day of our modified block, so we only meet about 48 minutes or so; we used the entire period to work on our responses, and I gave students an additional 20 minutes today in our normal block session of 90 minutes (this class meets Wednesdays and Fridays).

For our next steps, students received a gallery walk notetaking sheet, and we reviewed the following instructions:

Students then visited the 10 stations in whatever order they preferred and jotted down their notes.

 

Yes, I spend my own money on the sticky notes and colored paper, but they are a wonderful investment!

As students finished, they received a reflection handout to help them process their notes from the gallery walk:

We’ll talk through their ideas and reflections as a class on Friday before we take our unit assessment on the play.  The primary goal of this activity was to give students a chance to revisit the statements that kicked off our study of Macbeth and to think about how the reading of the play changed (or didn’t change!) our perceptions and reactions to the provocative statements that tie into the themes and big ideas of Macbeth.  I love being able to do “before” and “after” activities around a common text or activity with longer works of literature and nonfiction, and I’m excited to read and hear what the students have to say in our class discussion on Friday.

On an individual level, I read the sticky notes after class on Monday and used them as a formative assessment in progress so that I could help students today who were coming up short on specifics and/or textual evidence in their responses as they moved forward with finishing their work today.

Visualizing Our Research with Sticky Notes

My seniors, who have been researching  their self-selected topics under the umbrella of “The Future of Work,” have completed their first round of research.  We had roughly four days (we meet for 90 minute blocks) to delve into our research guide.   Students formed Birds of Feather groups by interest and designed their research questions as well as inquiry project jobs for each member.

This past Wednesday I felt students needed an opportunity to assess the information they had collected so that they could see what information they had (or didn’t have!) and what they still needed, especially since roughly 1/4 of the class has struggled to use class time given for taking notes. We have used a range of notetaking tools:  an assortment of graphic organizers and even Google Forms (I ran a mail merge and printed these out for students).  After returning all notes to students, we used this past Wednesday to look at our work and break out each note onto an individual sticky note.

Once students had completed compiling their notes onto the sticky notes, I asked them to look at their work and group “like” ideas together. They then were asked to come up with a label or category for the notes.   Students then received a large oversize poster sticky note and did the following steps:

  • Wrote their research question and name at the top.
  • Drew a t-square grid.
  • Wrote each category of notes.
  • Taped/stuck the notes into the appropriate square on the grid.

Once the posters were completed, we hung them together by groups; I created colorful placeholders for each group along with a copy of their research plan to anchor each gallery of work.

Once students finished this part of the activity, they completed a self-assessment of their progress on their inquiry so far:  Post Research Round 1 Reflect and Assess September 20 2017 Period 1B 12th ELA Honors .

As part of the self-assessment, students were asked to reflect on what information they had and what they still needed after they had reviewed their visual poster of their notes.  This part of the activity was helpful because I was extremely impressed by students’ assessments of their progress and next steps for finding the information they still needed.  In addition to being a meaningful and reflective exercise, this activity  has generated interest from students and teachers traveling in our hallway!  How do you build in self-assessment opportunities into your inquiry projects?  How do you help students reflect on the information they are gathering and then determine what they still need and how to move forward?

Gettin’ Sticky With It: Post-It Notes for Formative Assessment, Sharing, Meaning Making, and Noticing

During the week of August 14-21,we read and discussed together the following Native American selections in all of my 11th Language Arts classes:

  • “The Earth on Turtle’s Back”
  • “When Grizzlies Walked Upright”
  • from The Iroquois Constitution

During that week we engaged in a good bit of collaborative work with station work and partner created Venn diagrams.  On Tuesday and Wednesday (we are on a modified block with A days and B days) , we used class time  to do some thinking, reflecting, and sharing on an individual level about the those Native American selections we read the previous week.  Students had the entire 90 minute block to complete the following graphic organizer over the three selections:

Originally, I envisioned students would visit the “stations” I had set up around the room with flyers containing the thinking prompt, QR codes with a virtual version of the hard/physical copy, and a parking lot to post the Post-It notes, but I realized prior to the activity that most of my students often need some quiet individual time for thinking before we begin moving about and get frenetic, or that is at least a need at this point in time.

Once students completed the graphic organizer, they transferred their responses to the sticky notes I provided them. I differentiated the required number of Post-It note shares; for some classes, students shared all 12 responses.  For other classes, I asked them to select their best “x” responses (example:  select and copy what you feel are your strongest 6 answers).

Students called me over to read their graphic organizer before beginning the Post-It note work; for the classes that had the modification of selecting their “x” number of strongest responses, it was interesting to see how many students looked to me to help them select their best responses.  In those instances, I simply asked the student, “What do you think and why?”, and he/she would immediately begin talking me through their self-selection process.  I loved hearing the students think aloud to me, and I think this process also gave many students a little more confidence in his/her decision-making.

Because we do have 90 minute blocks, students used Thursday/Friday (and some will finish on Monday, our “skinny” day) to do an individual or partner gallery walk (see below).

Students visit each “station” of responses and can jot down a response that was memorable or significant to him/her/them OR write about a pattern of responses he/she/they notice(s).   In addition, many students did a first pass of reading as they visited and taped up their Post-It note responses (air is turned off overnight in my building; consequently, the humidity kills the adhesive power of even the “super” sticky Post-It notes).

Many students shared positive feedback about the activity in terms of getting to read the content as well as the colorful look to our room.   I feel it is important to use all of the available wall space inside my room (and any that I can use outside of it!) to create galleries of student crafted work whether we are actively utilizing it for a community knowledge building activity or just simply sharing and celebrating our thinking in a visible way.  At the beginning of the year, I was very intentional about leaving wall (and bulletin board) space empty so that we would have places to share our work and create gallery walk stations; this belief was reinforced by this post from Megan Kortlandt of the fabulous Moving Writers blog.  Many thanks to Smokey Daniels for reminding me of this fabulous resource for envisioning the classroom environment from Smokey and Sarah Ahmed’s wonderful book, Upstanders.