Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Role of Generalizable Language in Notice and Note: A Book Study

Did you ever find yourself reading a book and saying out loud, "Yep! That's what I think too!" Well, maybe you don't actually say it out loud, but you think it... and then wonder if other people are thinking the same thing. (Or you DO say it out loud and people give you a funny look...)

http://www.dilly-dabbles.com/p/notice-and-note-2014-summer-book-study.htmlIn any case, that's how I've been feeling as I have been reading through Notice and Note! I am laughing, nodding, agreeing and considering as I read each chapter. It is truly a wonderful, thought-provoking book. And... Lucky us! Sweet Melissa from DillyDabbles has organized a Book Study that invites you to join in and link up your own reflections as we make our way through the text. (Come on... Join us! We'd love to hear what you're thinking too!) Click on the link to the right to take you to the outline of the book study and the stops along the way. And use the link up at the end of this post or the comments section to share your ideas.

I am excited to be talking about Section 7 in Notice and Note which I am sharing with my BlogFriend, Jana, from Thinking Out Loud. She's taking the first half of the section and I will talk about the second half where Beers and Probt discuss "generalizable language."

Now I know I haven't even started talking about my section, but I need to quickly send you to two bloggy places.

First, go to Jana's blog at Thinking Out Loud. She's actually discussing the first part of our shared venture! If you're a sequential thinker, you might want to start there. Actually, if you're a sequential thinker, you and I both know you'll feel better if you start there!


Here's another great link... Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang reviewed Section 6 and she posted some terrific freebies on her blog. These freebies offer a great way for kids to do the "deep thinking" that brings meaning to reading--but I found that the bookmark kept me focused too! (And, okay, I'll admit it: I printed the color one, laminated it and it is now marking my place in my book!) But it's more than pretty! Until you are really comfortable remembering and recognizing the Signposts, this bookmark serves as a sort of mini-scaffold. Proof: It came in handy as I read through some other children's literature looking for evidence. I kept forgetting the signpost, Tough Questions. There it was on my bookmark! And I was SO excited when I found many of the Signposts in my perusal of Tuck Everlasting. That was my first inkling that this Signpost process really can work! Click on Sabra's button below to take you to the bookmarks as well as a graphic organizer...


Jana did a great job of discussing the anchor questions that help children uncover the Signposts in a text. Now let's talk about The Role of Generalizable Language. It's quite a mouthful to say, but what it says is so powerful! And it's all about the fish!

Fish from the Colorful Fish collection by Little Red on TpT HERE
The authors draw the comparison of giving someone a fish versus teaching them to fish. As it applies to teaching students to be capable readers, we often give them the fish--we give students support to find meaning in one instance (p. 80). Though well intended, we need to teach them strategies that can be utilized with any text to aid children in questioning and contemplating and understanding what they are reading. We need to teach them to fish!

Word choice is critical. If a teacher models or instructs with language that is too specific, too narrow, the student will not be able to generalize his understanding to another text--or perhaps, even to another point in the same book!

The Signposts identified in Notice and Note are not "difficult" to understand as far as "definitions." With little prompting, students can understand the idea of contrast or repetition or aha moments. The more difficult work comes from understanding what these Signposts look like in any text.

To guide students' understanding, Beers and Probst present the idea of "generalizable language" that supports students in developing a global understanding of each of the Signposts. Teaching in this manner affords students an opportunity to detect the signposts in a variety of texts and contexts!

An example of the authors generalizable language used to support students in locating instances of the Signpost, "Again and Again" appears below.

from Notice and Note, Kylene Beers and Robert Probst, p. 85

OOPS. I'm getting a little ahead of myself there. You'll learn more about this at the next stop. Consider it a "teaser." :)

I also wanted to add an aside that continues to become clearer as I read through the book. There is a nudge toward planning instruction differently that is making me giddy. Teaching kids to recognize and analyze the Signposts has the potential to engage and involve upper grade readers in discussions that make my heart flutter. It won't happen without planning. Or guiding. Or teaching. But I can easily imagine my sixth graders contemplating the Signpost of "Tough Questions" as they review Philips's revelation in The Cay that Timothy did all those things for him... I'm not even officially done with this school year, and I am already having visions of next year!

The authors remind us that the process is a slow one that may require some prompting and patience (I don't know why, but that makes me feel a lot better about this challenge). It's not just about teaching the Signposts. It's about students taking the responsibility to read and reflect, to ask questions, and to "be willing to share and revise their thoughts in responsible conversation with others." Though they have said it in several different places throughout the book, it's clearer than ever: This is the rigorous reading we are aiming for!

Ahhhh. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a "professional reading" text to this extent. Maybe it's because the authors seem so "real" and, in many instances, so unafraid to say the things that teachers have been thinking for quite awhile. And they just want kids to enjoy reading again!

So, what's your take on this section? Do you think that kids can learn a set of generalizable strategies to help them think deeply about texts? Can we teach them some "habits of mind" that they can use, regardless of the text or the text level? Here's your chance: Link up, add a comment, be a part of the conversation. After reading this far, I'm pretty sure Beers and Probst would appreciate our willingness to talk it through...


  1. Kim, Thanks so much for your thoughts! I've been giddy as well and am planning discussion for our first class read aloud, Maniac Magee. I'm also excited to have students post and respond about their literature circle reading in edmodo groups and I really think the signposts will help us have deeper and more interesting discussions on our books. Thank you!

  2. I think you're right ... I'd like this book! And I'm with Melissa, Maniac Magee is such a wonderful read-aloud for this age group.

    It was such a delight to talk character, education, and life in person with you!


  3. I am loving this book as well. I think it works much better for 6th graders than CAFE. It just seems to "make sense" if you know what I mean.

    Think, Wonder, & Teach

  4. Hi Kim! I finishing up this book this weekend and I could have written so many of the same things because I feel the same way! I have enjoyed this book thoroughly and I'm so excited to incorporate all of my learning in the future!

    I do think that kids can learn the generalizable strategies but, like you said, but I know it will take careful planning on my part to make this happen.

    Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts on using the bookmark too--I definitely need this kind of scaffolding in the beginning stages.

    Thanks Kim!!! :)


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