This is a guest blog post from first-grade teacher Lyssa Sahadevan. If you like what you read here, you can see more from her on our blog here, or check out her own blog here! This post contains a free stop-and-jot template download at the bottom of the page!
Confession: In the past, I did not love teaching a nonfiction unit. It’s true! I simply was not as comfortable or confident with the genre. This changed for me when I realized nonfiction/informational (we use these terms interchangeably) reading is not just a unit—it is a yearlong study. Embracing this notion has changed reading in my classroom; we start reading informational books on the very first day of school and incorporate them every single day. This supports the Common Core State Standards and our entire curriculum, not to mention student interests!
Starting the official nonfiction unit is a snap when students have prior experience with informational texts. We sort books into groups, look for text features, and share our new learning. We use sticky notes to mark new vocabulary, aha moments, shocking information, funny or gross parts, amazing pictures, and interesting diagrams. We use a lot of sticky notes.
While I love sticky notes and could be their spokesperson, I needed something a little more for assessment. As my readers are on several different levels, I did not feel good about giving a paper-and-pencil test. I instead created a page for students to stop and jot their thinking. I learned about “stop and jots” during training with Columbia’s Teacher College. Stop and jots are an opportunity for students to stop and jot their thinking while they read. They are meant to be quick, so the reader can keep reading!
We first use the stop and jot page as a class on a text we read together. From there, students work with a partner on a shared book or books to complete the activity. Next up is independent work from their “just right” selection. This is a little window into their reading. When I conference with students, I leave one of these with them and let them know we will be talking about it during our next conference. They fold it up and place it inside their book for easy access.
Sometimes the boxes are empty and they stop and jot their own ideas. Other times, I assign topics to the boxes, as they are certain skills the student is focusing on at the time. The boxes are for pictures or words and can be used with any level text.
Here’s to celebrating informational reading and not dreading the assessment part of it!
Lyssa Sahadevan is a first grade teacher in Marietta, GA. She loves reader's and writer's workshop, is a former Teacher of the Year, and shares ideas at www.mymommyreads.com.
To download a free PDF of Lyssa's stop-and-jot template worksheet (pictured above), click the template image below! To find out more about the Zoozoo Into the Wild series, which contains the Frog book shown, click here to visit the website or click the image below to download a series information sheet with key features and highlights. Check back often for more classroom-tested tips and free downloads!