Gone, are the days of the “book report” and instead, we now expect our students to think deeply and respond to literature.
Ultimately, we are teaching literary writing skills that students will use for the rest of their lives, and whether they are going to write an essay, a review, or criticism, they need to become comfortable with taking notes and recording their ideas while they read.
Asking students to “jot” the ideas they have while reading – on something like a sticky note – often incites a chorus of moans and groans. Many of them absolutely hate doing it. I even had a student recently and dramatically tell me, “Post-Its are the death of me.” However, the bottom line is that we need “evidence” of the students’ thinking while reading, and those sticky notes are just so darn easy to organize and move around in notebooks, charts, organizers, and so on. Many educators keep going back to using them simply because they aren’t sure how else to go about it.
The monotonous act of peeling off a new sticky note from the stack, writing the idea on it, and adhering it to the book sometimes makes reading that much harder for readers who already struggle – or it becomes the “straw the breaks the camel’s back” for reluctant and unwilling readers. The last thing we want to do, as educators, is turn kids off of reading.
HOW TECHNOLOGY CHANGES THINGS
Today’s technology provides new options for these students, and for us. The available technology makes it possible for students to show evidence of their thinking in different ways, and they never have to touch a piece of paper if they don’t want to.
One remedy that has presented itself for students who use readers like Nooks, Kindles, or the iPad, is the way that they can actually create and organize notes right there, inside the electronic book. This is a great option for them, but not all students have such readers. (This option is a future blog post in and of itself!) For the students who are still reading “old-fashioned”, paper books, there is another way to integrate technology and accomplish the goal of proving thinking while reading.
The ABC Notes app for Apple products is a current favorite app among my students. They love it because the notes look just like sticky notes that we use in class and can be customized for color and size. Students find the app easy to navigate; creating new notes, organizing the notes, and deleting them is very easy to do and does not require much time to learn. The students can color code the notes, add small images, or change the font style or color if they choose. They can tilt or rotate the notes on the screen if necessary, and the notes expand to accommodate the amount of text typed on them. The notes can then be exported easily, either one by one or all at once, through email.
The free version of this app allows for one “desktop” at a time, and the paid version allows for multiple “desktops.” Most of my students use the free version and simply export their work and then clear the app before beginning a new set of notes. I do like the idea of keeping multiple sets of notes, however, for middle school students, fewer notes to organize inside the app may actually be a good thing. Clearing the app whenever they begin a new set of notes gives them a fresh start each time.
Once the notes have been exported through email, students can continue editing them, or they can save, print, or store them to be used later. Because the notes are already in typed format, students can also copy and paste the ideas electronically when elaborating on their ideas further, as with formal essay writing.
I chose this app to share because I’ve noticed struggling and reluctant readers start to read much more and produce better evidence of their thinking while reading when using this app. They enjoy it, and there are absolutely no moans or groans when my students are asked to record their thoughts while reading – if they get to use this app.
WHAT THE APP MAKERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT
• 88 backgrounds to choose from
• 45 note skins
• 27 badge designs & 115 icons
• 15 virtual desktops
• Scale, rotate and drag notes
• Easy to edit, duplicate, move between desktops
• Supports any iPad orientation
SHARE YOUR NOTES:
• Email notes and desktops
• Copy note image to any application
• Synchronize notes between iOS devices
• Save notes as image and place to lock or home screen
What did YOU do in school today?