Reading comprehension can often be frustrating for a child, especially one who is just learning to read. Not only do they have to concentrate on decoding the words, they also have to make connections between what they are reading and what they already know as well as find the meaning of what they are reading. And as the text becomes more complex, the child can become more frustrated. As a teacher, I struggled with trying to find ways to keep the frustration level down. Until I started to use…Sticky Notes.
Here are some common situations a frustrated child encounters when reading a fiction text…
- Why did the character do that?
- What does that word (or phrase) mean?
- I don’t understand what’s important here!
- There is so much going on…I can’t keep up!
- There are too many big words!
This level of confusion and frustration can lead to “I give up!” So how do we as teachers and parents stop this from happening? Here are 5 ways to use sticky notes to get over that reading comprehension hump.
1) The Important Stuff
The first thing I do if my students are having trouble with understanding the text is label three sticky notes with Who?, What?, and When?. I have them place the sticky notes in the story where each question is answered. (With younger students such as Kindergarteners, you might have to help them with this step.) I then go over each sticky with them. This usually helps to clarify what the story is about and many times leads to clearing up the child’s frustration.
2) Challenges and Responses
For students who are having trouble understanding a character’s motives, I have them label three sticky notes with Why? and three sticky notes with How?. I ask them to place to place a Why? note next to a place where the character faces a challenge. I then ask them to place a sticky note next to the place where the character responds and overcomes the challenge. We then discuss the challenges and responses and how they help the character grow or give them the tools to overcome the final challenge.
3) Making Sense of the Text
For this step I have them label sticky notes with a question mark. Whenever they don’t understand a passage, they mark it with this note. I then ask them to read on and see if their question is answered later on. Oftentimes, their confusion clears up. The sticky note serves a crucial purpose – it stops them from dwelling too much on that part of the text. Many times a child will be so fixated on their confusion that they miss the answer in the next few paragraphs.
4) Make connections
If a child is having trouble understanding their text, I like to have them make connections with their background knowledge or previous texts they have read. I will often ask them to place a sticky note on facts they already know. When they are done, I review these notes with them then ask questions such as “How does knowing this fact help you understand the story?”.
5) Unknown Words
And finally, I ask the student to place a sticky note next to any unknown words. With older kids, I ask them to write the word on the note. When they are done reading, we go over the notes as I help them use decoding strategies to figure out the meaning of the word.
I hope these tips about using sticky notes in your reading comprehension lessons help you reach that frustrated child!