Sunday, May 11, 2014

Notice and Note

During my school district's implementation of #CCSS, I have been fortunate enough to serve on the District Language Arts Workgroup.  In these meetings, we have had spirited debate and discussion regarding not only Common Core State Standards and its implementation, but also the strategic instruction required and the research to support that instruction.  

While discussing the need for students to actively participate in close reading of texts, I noticed that one of the excerpts of research that we were reading referenced a new book by Kylene Beers and Robert A. Probst titled Notice and Note:  Strategies for Close Reading.  I ordered the book and tore through it.  

I easily tout this book as the most easily applicable professional reading that I have ever read.  

I won't give you a book review, as you can find those on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and through Heinemann press.  Instead I'll give you a quick layout of the book, tell you why it appealed to me, and how I implemented the strategies in my fifth grade classroom.  

The book is organized into three main parts:  "Part I-The Questions We Pondered" is a discussion of critical topics that affect readers and reading instruction, "Part II-The Signposts We Found" explains the signposts that are the meat of the close reading strategies, as well as the questions that correlate with each signpost, and "Part III-The Lessons We Teach" provides model lessons to use in your classroom.

Quick, but relevant, bird walk here...
Chapter 2 of Part I really struck a chord with me directly.  The title of the chapter is "And What is the Role of Fiction?"  The "aha moment" (to borrow a signpost) for me was the idea that students can learn sympathy, even empathy, through fiction.  In essence, we learn to be human through the humanities.  It made me reflect on my reading instruction for the current year.  Since my grade level is departmentalizing, I am teaching Reading and Science.  It stands to reason that a large amount of my reading instruction has occurred while integrating non-fiction Science texts into my reading instruction.  I resolved to increase my fictional reading instruction and this professional text was exactly what I needed.  

I began implementing the strategies using the model lessons found in Part III.  The "teacher talk" that they suggested was helpful, but I found that I need to modify it to make it relevant and interesting to my groups.  The texts (excerpts of novels and short stories) that were provided...oh wait, did I fail to mention that?  Yes!  The appendix of the book has a reproducible excerpt of text for teaching, as well as one for reteaching, if necessary, each signpost.  Although these texts are provided, my classroom is pretty close to paperless and I was not excited about duplicating these for my students to mark-up.  After a quick internet search, I found that Heinemann provided most of these in pdf form.  Yay! (Click the tab titled "Companion Resources")

I taught one signpost a week until all 6 were mastered by the students.  As I taught a signpost, I would post the signpost, as well as the corresponding question for easy student access.

 I also created a page in my LMS with the anchor posters.  The anchor posters are also clickable links to pdf versions of the text excerpts.  

After all of the signposts were solidly holstered in their metaphorical tool belts, I knew it was time to put their skills to work on a novel.  I chose Number the Stars.  We read the novel aloud and discussed the signposts as they came along.  At times, we recorded our thoughts in writing but more often than not, the questions inspired partner talk and classroom discussion.  One thing that I shared with the students is that there was no "wrong" answer for a signpost as long as they could make the case for why they felt it fit. It was so empowering and triggered so much powerful dialogue.

As we came across signposts, I recorded them on a class mind map.  

Students recorded them in an app on their iPads and they were as individual as the students themselves.  Here are a few examples:

Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have.  I would also love any feedback that you may be able to provide.  Thanks for looking!


  1. I'm going to have to try that app. I also appreciate your color coding of the signposts. That works better for me!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with N&N. This is so helpful! I love the mind maps!

  3. Can you give the app name? So terrific!