This last fall, I had an opportunity to (temporarily) receive a digital review copy of Notice & Note by Kylene Beers, which was published by Heinemann in 2012. Since I last reviewed this book in 2014, I have finished ten years of homeschooling my children (pre-k to middle school). Last year, I specifically used the Notice & Note signposts as I taught my then-fourth-grade daughter to respond to literature.
We had great success. This year, she is in school, and as she was reading one of her books for class, she was excited to tell me about the sign post she had found as she was reading.
“This is just like we talked about last year!”
I cannot remember which of the signposts that she had found, but there is no doubt that learning and noticing the signposts in the books we read and enjoyed together has helped her as she approaches books today. To me, this is a testament to the lasting power of learning to approach literature in this way.
About Notice and Note
As I revisited Notice and Note, I did not sit and reread the book, cover to cover, as I admit I did before the first time I reviewed it. It was a great way to approach the concepts in the beginning. This time, I instead focused on Part II of the book (defining the signposts and why they are helpful) and Part III of the book (lessons to teach to help the students learn the signposts). Throughout the book, the authors also provide sample conversations with students as they read various books and the authors’ teach the concepts with them. Each section and most chapters have a Q&A for educators. Although I wasn’t working with a classroom last year, I still find these discussions helpful to see just where the signposts can take us as we read.
The signposts include Contrasts and Contradictions, Aha Moment, Tough Questions, Words of the Wiser, Again and Again, and Memory Moment. These might seem self-explanatory, and any educator who teaches from literature would probably already be encouraging students to find such concepts as they read. But there is much more in Notice and Note that helps make this a useful concept to use in teaching and writing about literature. First, the book gives simple explanations and and uses these as the basics: comprehension is a must to find these basic concepts. Also, I love that Notice and Note provides suggested questions to ask as we read (see Part II, chapter 3, “Anchor Questions”).
Using Concepts from Notice and Note in Our Homeschool
As the authors indicate is best, we too approached learning the signposts one at a time. Also, since my daughter was so young, we searched for signposts together in books that we read together. (This is/was one of my favorite things about homeschooling: the ability to read together for so much time! It breaks my heart that my loves-to-read daughter has less time for delight reading now that she is in school.) In the beginning, we worked even with some short videos from Disney so we could find the concept quickly in a story, rather than in our reading. (It felt easier to teach a concept when we can find it in a four-minute movie.) Finding concepts in picture books also worked well for us in the beginning.
As we read full-length novels for this project, my daughter and I took notes whenever we found a signpost. (Usually after we read a section we’d discuss it.) Since this was our first year of using these concepts, and because she was at the younger end of the spectrum suggested for using this concept, I read along with her and helped her notice the “clues” to the signposts. Clues and generalized language to look for are both discussed in Part II of Notice and Note.
When we finished the book together, my daughter then chose her favorite signpost that we had found to write about in a paragraph. Because we’d taken notes as we read, she did not struggle to write about the book. We could use the question prompts to guide her in writing: she’s start by answering the question. The two most memorable books we read using these concepts — and taking notes — were Because of Winn-Dixie and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. I’ll find her writing and share her paragraphs as “kid reviews,” if she lets me. I am so proud of her insights.
I want to explain that using the Notice and Note signposts in our reading response does not take the roll of a full homeschool curriculum. It is a guide for reading deeply, with a critical eye, even while enjoying great books. We still had a phonics/spelling program. I still talked about grammar and sentence mechanics using concepts and writing practice from IEW. But for making read aloud time an even more enjoyable time by making connections in the book, Notice and Note is definitely a guide I’m glad to return to.
Cover image courtesy Heinemann website. Click to purchase. I’m not an affiliate of Heinemann.