sticky 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!

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.