I have written about my love for Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s Notice and Note before. I have no issues acknowledging my love for it again because I know that as a piece of my Language Arts instruction it helps my students see all forms of text in new ways. For those that do not know what Notice and Note is but follow my blog or Twitter activity, I suggest picking the books up. The fiction version can be found here and the nonfiction is available here I would suggest picking them both up as they add different signpost that help students understand the text and think deeper about the authors choices, what characters are doing and develop a better understanding of things like theme, conflict and, in the case of nonfiction, help students identify bias among other things.
Before I get into ways I use notice and note among other things in my class I did want to touch on what I think Notice and Note is not. It is not an easy one size fits all system. For me it is a journey to better understand, to figure out how my student’s thoughts and understandings work with the text. Notice and Note is an adventure without a defined map. The signposts that are discussed in the book can be clear but can also be hidden among the beautiful words of a page. There is no one answer and so Notice and Note is not an assessment tool, it is not a quiz or a scavenger hunt. Notice and Note is a tool in the tool kit and it most certainly was never intended to be a list of signposts and a teacher looking for the “right answers”. Some of my favourite Notice and Note moments are the audible gasps students let escape as they notice something and want to share. I love Notice and Note and I love combining the ideas within and other things to increase the engagement in my Language Arts classroom.
This week my school had a grand opening to celebrate the end of our renovations. I was looking at ways to celebrate the things we are doing in my room and took out different assignments we have done in my 7B class. At the time I had students from another class in the room who I have just taken back after having a student teacher for the early part of the year. One student asked me when they get to do fun stuff like that (mindmaps and one-pagers) I was surprised with their desire to do the assignment and they started talking about how cool it looked and how much better it had to be than worksheets collecting signposts.
I put the different Notice and Note related assignments up.
Students looked at the Big 3 Questions of Notice and Note nonfiction with this article. They talked about What Surprised them?, What Confused them?, and What Challenged, Changed or Confirmed their thinking? Following the read and annotations, we got together and in small groups and “TQE’d” (Marisa, like how I made it a verb? lol) and then discussed as a whole class. The discussion was rich and their grade 7 minds were in overdrive looking into each others thinking. This was the first step in our work to look at issues in the world and a great start because of the tools Notice and Note provides. I wasn’t looking for an answer, for specific things the kids found. I was just looking for thinking and they did not disappoint.
Reading Avi’s short story “What does a fish have to do with anything?” each year is a favourite activity for me. I love the story and the message. We use it as a way for the student to practice self-identifying signposts. This year I put a spin on it and the kids added skills like visualizing, summarizing, identifying theme and conflict. All related to the purpose of Notice and note and it turned out great. The kids had fun, their levels of ability were present but they all could participate and joyfully did.
Another great way to incorporate signposts has been utilizing a mind map. I can do it with books for sure but I love using movies as students have a chance to watch the film with an eye for signposts. One parent has complained that it makes it hard watching movies with kids now because they are trying to solve the mystery before the end of the movie and they spoil it because they are so aware of these decisions the filmmaker has made. Students simply identify signposts and web them out in a way that works for them.
Notice and Note is my favourite discovery in teaching. It empowers my students to look at and more importantly understand the text in front of them. I will be forever grateful for the first PD session I attended with Bob and Kylene and the constant support and inspiration they are. I end this little love letter to Notice and Note with a plea. Give your students the opportunity to discover the world of literacy with tools that will help them, free of assessment and lists. Let them read, let them notice, let them think and let them discuss. The difference it will make with your readers will be reward enough.