Questions While Reading
Asking questions while reading can be one of the greatest aids to understanding a passage, either at home or in class. For ESL students, though, questions can become a juggernaut making the end of the reading unreachable. Students may become frustrated, and if they had finished the selection some of their questions may have been answered by the remainder of the article. To help your students over this hurdle, give each student several post-its to use as he reads. When he has a question about the passage or finds himself confused, have him write the question on the post-it and stick it near the place he had the question and continue reading. Then, when he has reached the end of the passage, have him return to his notes and see if any of his questions were answered. Any remaining questions, he brings to a reading group of three or four and asks his classmates if they know the answers. Collect any questions that remain after the discussion groups and talk about them as a class. Your students will eventually have all of their questions answered. Through this activity, your students will also recognize thathaving questions as you read is okay, and that the questions are often answered by the end of the reading selection.
Before you introduce a new set of reading vocabulary to your students, see what they already know or can decipher about the given set of words. Write the new vocabulary on the board and have groups of three or four students copy each word on to its own post-it. Then ask the students to sort the words in a way that seems logical to them. They can use the knowledge they already have of the words, word roots, or part of speech endings. If possible, have them sort the words on the inside of a file folder, and can keep the words sorts until after the reading is complete. Then, once they have read the words in context and learned what they mean from the reading selection, have the same groups resort the same set of words. Most likely, they will decide on a different sorting logic after learning the meaning of the words.
You can use post-its to check your students’ reading comprehension as well as teach them how to write a summary. Break your class into groups of four to six students, and assign a reading selection to the group. Once everyone has completed the selection, have your students close their books, and give each person three post-it notes. On each of these notes, each person writes one event or piece of information from the reading selection. Encourage your students to write the most important events, and check to make sure everyone has some understanding of what they have read by reading the notes. Then, the groups of students come together and put all their post-its in sequential order. They will find it challenging to remember all the events in the reading selection. Once the events are in order, you can show your students how to write a summary from the main points they chose from the story. Your students will not become bogged down in the details of the story when they write from their own highlights!
You can also use the smallest post-its to create a cloze exercise for your students. Type out a reading passage in a large font, and use the small post-its to cover every fifth word. (Note: you may have to adjust the spacing of the words to make the post-its fit.) Then, challenge your students to write an appropriate word on each post-it to complete the passage. They can check to see if their words match the original words by looking underneath the post-it, but any word which logically and grammatically completes the blank would be an acceptable answer.
If you use KWL charts (Know, Want to Know, and Learned) with your students before reading a new reading selection, try this variation, which uses post-it notes. Instead of having students complete individual charts, have them write what they know about a given topic on post-it notes – one idea on each note. As a student completes a note, announce to the class what is on the note and stick it to your board. As your students hear what their classmates know, they may remember facts of their own. Continue until everyone has written down all of their ideas and you have posted them. In effect, your class will be brainstorming everything they know about the day’s topic, but the simple addition of sticky notes will make the activity more energetic and entertaining. Once the first part of the activity is done, have students write down any questions they might have about the topic of the day on separate post-it notes. (Use a different color note, again one note per idea.) Follow the same procedure as you did with the first part. After your class reads their selection, have them write things that they learned on a third color of post-it. These go on the board, too. When what a student learned answers one of the questions from the second part of the activity, post the third note next to the question note.
Keep a supply of post-its near your classroom library. When a student completes a book from the library, he writes a one sentence review of the book on a post-it note. He can write what he liked, what he didn’t, or any other thoughts he has after reading the book. Then, when your other students are choosing their next books, they can read the review that the first reader wrote. After this second person finishes the book, she writes her own review and sticks it in the front of the book. The reading and reviewing continue in this manner, and by the end of the school year, you will have a deep understanding of which books are working for your class and which aren’t. Moreover, your students will have peer feedback at their fingertips when it is time to choose a new book.
You can get your students to think critically as they read by placing post-it notes in your classroom library books. Write several sticky notes for each book that you have in your classroom, and ask questions such as these: What do you think will happen next? Did the main character make the right decision? What advice would you give the character? Then, place these notes strategically in your classroom books. When a student comes across one of the notes during his or her reading, he answers the question on a separate post-it note, writes the page number on which he found the question, and sticks the note to the cover of the book. You can then check your students’ comprehension by simply looking at the covers of their books and their answers to your quick questions.
Step by Step Summary
For students who may have a difficult time writing a summary of a large reading selection or chapter book, they can use post-it notes to write a summary as they read. Simply have students stop at the end of each chapter and write one sentence on a post-it summarizing what happened in that chapter. Then, at the end of the book, the student takes all the notes and puts them together to complete a summary of the entire novel.
Read Aloud Comments
If you find your students either interrupting you or giving you blank stares when you read to the class, you can use post-it notes to make a smoother and more effective read aloud experience. Whenever a student has a comment or question while you are reading to the class, he writes in on a post-it note. He can then stick the post-it to the front board once your reading session is over. You can then answer the question for the whole class or write a reply post-it to that specific student. If you are looking for feedback from all of your students, you can also hand out post-it notes to everyone after you are finished reading and have everyone write something that confused them, something that they thought was interesting, or something that they thought of as you were reading.