July 10, 2014

Personal Book Study: Notice & Note Part 1

My colleagues call me a nerd. Yes, I took my professional books to the beach. Yes, I read my professional books while sitting on the beach. I found it relaxing and informative. I have been forever deemed the ultimate nerd, but I'm pretty much okay with that. Ya'll understand, right?

Anyway...Every summer I choose a couple of professional books to add to my summer reading list. Some years I am better about plowing through them than others, and some years I get more out of them than other. This year I decided to read Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers & Robert E. Probst and I LOVE it!

Why did I put this particular book on my nerdy reading list?  Because I went to a workshop with Kylene and Bob (oh yea, we are a first name basis, hehe) and they were amazing! First of all, they were real. They understood the challenges facing teachers in the classroom because they are in classrooms constantly. They didn't pretend like everything was easy or that everything went well every time. But they were WERE knowledgeable, practical, and inspiring!

I have seen other book studies on this book floating around the blogosphere, so I know I'm a little late to the party, but just in case you are also fashionably late like me, I thought I would share some  interesting tid-bits from the first part of book...the part I've read. It's a book study with myself, lol. :)

Notice & Note Part 1: The Questions We Pondered
The first part consists of 10 essential questions, Beers & Probst asked themselves as they began their research and educational journey that became Notice & Note. Here are some of the BIG ideas I took away from this chunk of reading...

  • Fiction is just as important as non-fiction. With the huge push to increase the amount of expository texts in the classroom, sometimes fiction gets put on the sidelines. However, we forget about the value of a fiction text. Beers & Probst write, "...it is the imaginative literature that offers readers a chance to think about the human issues that concern us all: love, hate, hope, fear, and all the other emotions, problems, situations, and experiences of living" (17). I had never thought about fiction that way. I knew it was important, but could I articulate why I felt it was important to teach?  I don't think I would have had a very strong argument before. Now, I understand. Fiction helps us define who we are as people. We experience what the characters experience. We live in other worlds and we learn to expect and anticipate different things from different people because of the books we read.

  • Fiction helps build social skills! This is clearly connected to the previous idea, but I think it is so important, it deserved it's own bullet point. Beers & Probst cite another study saying, " 'Recent research shows...that reading stories can actually improve your social skills by helping you better understand other human beings. This process of entering imagined worlds of fiction builds empathy and improves your ability to take another person's point of view' (Oatley, K. 2011)" This was huge for me because now I feel armed and ready to defend my position on the value of fiction. Not that too many were questioning me, but still...

  • Rigor is NOT about making the text more difficult. Beers & Probst argue that rigor is how you approach the text and the reading you do within the text, not about the number of multi-syllabic words found in the text. Simple and to the point, but how many times have we simply looked for a "harder" text. 
  • Rigor is achieved when students are actively engaged with a text. When a book or text is too difficult, it is not fun to read. It's not engaging and certainly not thought provoking because all the reader's energy is being  put into decoding and understanding the basics. This brings us back to the power of fiction. The kid who loves space is engaged in the space article, but the kid who loves sharks might be bored. Non-fiction is focused and specific to the topic. It can be difficult to engage a classroom full of unique learners with one topic. However, a book about survival, courage, and overcoming fear can be engaging to everyone. Oh, the power of fiction. :)
  • Dialogic talk stimulates critical thinking (hello rigor) in the classroom. Dialogic talk is a conversation between students and teacher. The teacher is an active listener in the conversation, not just a facilitator of a discussion. All participants take ownership of the conversation and questions are generated from the students, not the teacher. The opposite of this is monologic talk. We teachers love this type of talk. This is when we ask a question, already knowing the answer. We are checking for understanding and it's important that we continue to use this type of talk in our classrooms. However, dialogic talk engages students in rich conversation and encourages them to own their thinking. 
  • Let students create their own text-dependent questions. If students are in charge of writing their own text-dependent questions, they are in also in charge of finding the meaning of the text as opposed to seeking and finding what the teacher has already decided is important. Beers & Probst offer some great steps for getting this started in your classroom (43). 
  • Guide your students to books using more than just a reading level. Now, I've always been a bit skeptical of reading levels because it never made sense to me. How could a book with a 2.8 reading level, have a F&P guided reading level of S, and be sitting somewhere in the 800s in Lexile? Huh? How does that work?  Well, we know that each system uses quantitative and qualitative measures to determine the reading level including structure, vocabulary, complexity of ideas, etc. But the biggest factors for finding a "Just Right" book are still student interest,  background, and maturity. Over the years, I've gone back and forth with leveling my classroom books. I fought the trend for a long time because I felt it was important for students to be able to find a JR book without scanning for a letter or a number. I had visions of students running their finger along the library shelves until they hit their "AR level" and just grabbing it blindly. That was not the type of reader I wanted my students to become. Now my library is leveled, but I'm cautious. I always tell them it's a guide and NOT to choose a book based on the letter on the cover. Luckily, I am familiar enough with my own library to recommend books based on what I know about the book's readability, interest, and content. Things that simply can't always be determined by a reading level. 
Of course, there was SO MUCH more good information in the first part of this book, but I think my post is long enough as it is. Ha! I hope you learned something new or simply affirm something you already knew. Sometimes it feels good to know that we are doing the right things and that research has our back. Ya know? I'm absolutely in love with this book and looking forward to getting into Part 2. More to come. :)

Anyone else read Notice & Note?  From one nerd to another, I'd love to hear your thoughts. 


  1. I love reading your blog. I, like you, read lots of professional books during the summer, it is the time when I can really focus on them and take out what I need to use in the class during the upcoming year. I am reading a few different ones already. But I think I will pick this one up too. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you! I often get overwhelmed from all the good stuff I read in the summer and then I don't know where to start, lol. It's tricky business this professional development thing. if you do grab this one, I'd love to know your thoughts. Email me! :)

  2. Great post! I just met Kylene and Bob on Tuesday. They were down to earth and practical. I earned so much in one day. I can't wait until their new book come out!! Are you a member of the Notice and Note Book Club on facebook? :)

    1. Thanks Ursula! Weren't they great. I was so disappointed that I didn't already have their book so I could have gotten it signed. Next time for sure! I will have to look up their new book. Somehow, I missed that, so thank you! And yes I am a member of the Notice and Note Book Club on Facebook. Kylene had me convinced. Now, I guess I just need to get on Twitter. :)

  3. I just bought this book and can't wait to read it on my vacation next week! Thanks for the recommendation. I would love to know what other professional books you are reading. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Hi Debbie! I'm also reading (or at least have stacked next to my bed) The Writing Thief by Ruth Culham and Total Participation Techniques by William Himmele. I saw William Himmele in June as well and he was great! Many of his strategies for getting kids involved were easy to incorporate and fun. Good stuff! :)


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