Reading Comprehension Strategies: Sticky Notes vs Double Entry Diary and More

Reading comprehension strategies are all the rage these days, and it does make sense. If students are not following along while reading and thinking about things in the reading, they are not truly reading. I don’t think some of my students even understand the fact that they need to comprehend what they are reading. They just read the words and think about what they are having for lunch, etc. There are several comprehension strategies I have tried and learned in my degree programs and they have varying degrees of success.

Sample of student sticky notes

Sticky Notes
This is an exercise I did ALL YEAR last year with my seventh graders. Students follow along while reading, and any time they have a comment, question, prediction, etc, they write it on a sticky note and put in it in the book. This took months of training to become successful. Students need lots of modeling and guided practice before they can become confident to write their own sticky notes. But once I had my students trained, it worked well and was very successful in aiding their comprehension. I suggest starting to model it on the first day of school and train them well! Some tips and tricks I learned from doing it all year:

1. Give students prompts. I had a poster on the wall with ‘starters’ for sticky notes (I predict that…., This reminds me of…)

2. Stop while reading (if reading out loud) and tell students to make a specific comment about something you think is important, and then have them share responses. As teachers we always want to stop students while reading and explain why this part of the book is important. But allowing kids to try to figure it out on their own first will help them practice determining importance.

3. Grade the sticky notes based on participation. I had them do ten sticky notes every time we read. They get a grade out of 100 (if they did 9, they get a 90). By the end of the year, students would do sticky notes no matter if I was grading them or not, but this year with my high schoolers it’s harder to get them to do work when it ‘isn’t graded’….ugh!

4. Have them stick the notes on a piece of paper to hand in to grade, so you don’t have millions of sticky notes flying everywhere.

5.  It is worth it to have a lesson based on your students sticky notes. Like categorizing the sticky notes based on topic or strategy, or to have students think-pair-share with partners or in a group. This is a more student led discussion regarding the book you’re reading and not pointless comprehension questions.

Not sure who ‘made up’ using sticky notes for comprehension, but I know Chris Tovani mentions it in her books.

Double Entry Diary (Tovani)
The exact same idea as sticky notes, only students write the page number or quote in the left hand column of a T chart, and then their comment/questions/prediction in the right hand column. I also gave them ‘starters’ up at the top of the sheet. This also requires practice, guidance and modeling to be successful. This strategy hasn’t been that successful with my 9th and 10th graders this year. They are unmotivated to do these comments, as I said before, if they are ‘not graded’. And I didn’t train them as well as I did my seventh graders. To help this problem, I switched from the DED and tried the sticky notes with my 9th and 10th graders recently, and for some reason, they liked sticky notes better even though it’s the EXACT same thing. They probably just like the novelty of sticky and colorful things. Here’s an example of a student completed double entry diary:

Alphaboxes
Another one I have not tried but am going to try while reading  To Kill A Mockingbird is called Alphaboxes (Hoyt, 1999).
Students are given a grid with all the letters of the alphabet, with XYZ grouped together in the last square. For a given chapter, or set of chapters, they have to make at least one comment/question/prediction that starts with each letter of the alphabet.

As I said, I haven’t tried this one yet! I will post with updates!

DRTA Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (Stauffer, 1969)

This is kind of like guided reading. I mean really it is guided reading with a fancy name I guess. But a DRTA can be formatted and revised for almost any text. Students should be thinking, predicting and adjusting their thinking and predicting as they read. If they think that a character is going to do something, then more text clues tell them they were wrong, they should revise that prediction. Then they should evaluate this against what really happened. This is something good readers to all the time but poor readers need to be trained.
Here is an example of a DRTA that I gave my students while reading a non-fiction ghost story:

DRTA: “Amityville Horror”
Directed-Reading-Thinking-Activity
Before you read, it’s normal to guess what is going to happen, or what the passage will be about. It’s also important to go back and see whether or not if your predictions were right.
Directions: Make your predictions using complete sentences. After reading some of the story, change your predictions based on what you read.  After you read what actually happened, write that in the third column.
Prediction
Revise Prediction
What actually happened

Students had trouble with this one initially:
1. Have them make predictions first before even starting to read based on pictures, cover, titles, etc.

2. Then pick a pre-planned spot in the text to have them predict/revise.

3.Then make sure you have students write ‘what actually happened’ in the far right hand column.

It is laborious, but all good readers should use this strategy.

Well….that’s obviously not all of the reading comp strategies that exist, but these are a few I have tried and had success with! Feel free to comment and share your own!

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