From Post Its to Theories in the Reader's Notebook

Cynthia Satterlee
Here in Florida, we have been talking a lot about how important it will be for our students to learn to write in response to their reading to meet the common core standards but we are still learning what that "looks like" and how to get the students there.

I was very interested to see what Cynthia Satterlee, from Teacher's College Reading Institute had to say during her session entitled:  From Post-its to Theories to Writing Literary Essays:  Help Students Write Quick Literary Essays in the Reading and Writing Workshop

The first question Cynthia posed to us was, "What do you do with all those post its that the kids are stopping and jotting on while reading?" <As I think of how I threw them away when students were done reading so they could start a new book> Thankfully she didn't really require an answer before she said, "Don't throw them away!  Have the kids use them to build theories and essays."  It's a gradual process.  They move from inference to interpretation.  They take the good work they are doing on those post its and make it a little better as they move to writing about their ideas together.

There are so many ways to use the stop and jot:  as an active engagement activity during the mini lesson, as an exit ticket before they leave for independent work in workshop, during their reading in their books...but for when it is used as a quick picture for the teacher to see their thinking such as the morning bellringer thought, active engagement or exit ticket try using it with a JOT LOT.  On the poster each student has an empty square with their "student number" and they leave their thoughts there.  Imagine how much more thought they will put into it knowing their peers with see!  This will also give you a quick look at who you need to meet with or form a small group for during the workshop.

First have them grow their surface thinking on the stop and jots.  Elaboration on thoughts:
character feeling...... to......character feeling with evidence
character trait with evidence
interpretation of through character

Be ready for quality conversations with your students and for them to have thoughts on their own and with each other by making sure they are reading quality literature.  By starting with their thoughts on characters they have someone to "get to know" to build theories on.  "How is your theory of this character changing?  Why" 

In 4th grade students need to make inferences about characters, develop theories about character and find big themes in the story. In 5th grade students need to make inferences about characters interacting with other characters in the setting, notice that author sets the story up in a certain way to reveal theme.

How to make worthwhile post-its to bring to conversation in book clubs:
Don’t come to book club or conversation club without post its to talk about
Boxes and bullets can work on post-its
Use those to build ideas about characters

If there a lot of post its with one idea on each, work with them to see how to make a big idea (How are these post its related - do theory work with them)
When they are ready to start "talking like an essayist" then they can use that language to build their essay.

Post its are important, it helps the teacher understanding your thinking, it helps you form big ideas

Don’t worry about essay structure first, get ideas. 

Here's how they can see the structure with the stop in jots:
This will be a big move for us in writing this year.  I would love to hear tips and tricks from others that are successfully doing this with their students. 

Cross posted on LIVE FROM THE CREEK


I'm embarrassed at the number of times, even in 1st grade, that I have said, clean out your book and get rid of all those post its so you can start clean. After reading this it just seems like I was asking them to throw away thoughts and hard work! Ouch! I'll never look at post its in the same way! Thought-provoking piece!

Unknown said...


Your pictures show the progression from post-its to essays in a very "do-able" way for students. Students appreciate seeing their work be part of that bigger chunk of theories and essays so that they don't have to think of completely new and different things to write about. This blog clearly shows the relationship of reading response to both reading and writing.