Whether your students are reading texts designed for ESL classes or are tackling full length novels, you might find that sticky notes are a great asset to them as they read.
With a little direction and a few fun colors, sticky notes can make a big difference in your students’ comprehension no matter what they are reading. Here are some ways you can incorporate these fun slips of paper into your reading class.
Use Sticky Notes for Your Next Reading Class
A Character Collection
If you are reading a book as a class or if your students are doing independent reading, they can use sticky notes to keep a cast of characters. Every time readers encounter a new person in the text, they write that person’s name on a pink (or choose your own color) sticky note. Don’t stop with a simple list, though. Every time your readers encounter a passage that illustrates a character’s trait, have students write that trait and the passage that supports it on a yellow sticky note and place it alongside that character’s name. Students can quote the passage or summarize or paraphrase it and note the page where they found it. At the end of the book when it’s time to write a character analysis or do a book report, your students will have the support they need for any claims they make about a character’s traits, good or bad.
What Comes Next?
If you are reading a book with your class, here’s a simple activity to see who among you has the best prediction skills. At the end of every chapter or section of the book, have students take a sticky note and write a short guess at what will happen next in the novel. Put all the stickies on a poster board or some free wall space where everyone can see them. After you read the next section, you can go back and check who and how many students guessed right at what was coming next.
Notes to Share
If you give your students a chance to share what they are reading with the rest of the class, encourage them to use sticky notes to help them remember. As students are reading, they can note any particularly interesting points they want to share with the class. These points might be something that a character did, something they learned while reading, or a personal connection to the text. As students note their great ideas, have them also note the page where they were inspired. When it’s time for students to share what they are reading, they will be ready with specific great ideas from the text as well as their own inspirations that the reading brought about.
We All Have Questions
ESL students are bound to have questions as they read in English. Some students will find themselves wanting to stop every time they encounter an unfamiliar word or a sentence they do not understand. Even students who can quickly find the answers to their questions may find that stopping every few sentences has greater problems than benefits. For students who insist on getting answers to unfamiliar vocabulary or troublesome spots in the passage, sticky notes may be the answer to the problem. While reading, if a student encounters something confusing, comes across an unfamiliar vocabulary word, or has a question about what they are reading, have them jot their question down on a sticky note and continue reading. That reader may find that their question is answered as they continue with the text. Not every question will be, however. In such cases, at the end of that chapter or section, students can go back to their sticky note questions and look up unfamiliar words in their dictionaries or reread a passage and break it down to answer their question. That way their questions will still be answered, but the search for those answers will not interrupt the student’s fluency or hinder them from developing reading skills such as inferring and gathering clues from context.
How well are your students understanding what they are reading? You can find out with either of these simple sticky note activities. If you are reading a larger piece of literature in shorter sections, have students pause at the end of each part to write a stick note sized summary of what they have read. If students did not understand what they read, they can note any questions on a separate sticky. If you are teaching young people, have a reading activity do double duty as an art project. Give students six light colored sticky notes and have them arrange the notes on a page as if they were panes in a comic strip. Students can then fill the notes with small illustrations and dialogue that tell the viewer what happened in a particular section of the book. Sticky notes are less intimidating than a full sheet of paper, so even students whose art skills are in the world of stick figures won’t feel like their pictures aren’t worthy of the paper they were given.
Elements of Literature
Sticky notes can help you talk about elements every piece of literature should have: character, motivation, conflict, and resolution. Give students four sticky notes of different colors that will be the basis for a one sentence summary of these major literature points. On the first note, students write the main character of the story they have read and stick it to a piece of paper. After that note, the student writes “wanted” and follows that with the next sticky note. On this slip of paper the student writes, obviously, what the character wanted, or what his greatest desire or motivation was. The sticky then goes on the paper and should be followed with “but”. The third sticky tells of what problem the character encountered when trying to achieve that goal, in other words, the conflict. This sticky goes on the paper and is followed with “so”. On the final sticky note, students should write how the problem was solved, or the resolution of the conflict. It then goes on the paper after the other three notes. When students have finished their sticky notes, they will have a one sentence summary of character, motivation, conflict, and resolution.
No matter what activity you are doing, for every sticky note, have your students write the page number on the note and place it in their reading notebooks. That way when it’s time to use the notes your students have taken, they will be able to find the passage in the book quickly and easily.
Do you have a special use for sticky notes in your reading class?
Share it in the comments below.