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Post It Notes need to be your new best friend

Who doesn’t love sticky notes? Different colors. Different sizes. Plus . . . you know, they’re sticky. But they’re easy to underestimate. I mean, they’re literally a single use, throw away, forget about because their job is done, sort of thing.

But I was reminded recently by a friend of mine that sticky notes can be used in a lot more ways than just as a simple reminder stuck the corner of your computer monitor. There are lots of cool ways that we can use them to support historical thinking and the collecting / organizing of foundational content.

The simpliest way?

We all use exit tickets. But I like the simplicity of having a kid write down a few quick things on a sticky note and just whacking it on the door or bulletin board on their way out of class. The prompts might be: something new, rate its importance 1-10, how it connects to something else I know. Or try one of these sentence starters:

  • One thing I knew already was
  • I’m confused about
  • I learned . . . and now I’m thinking
  • One idea that challenged my thinking is
  • I agree or disagree with
  • One thing I got done today was

Maybe even have kids color code their ticket. Green for something that made sense to them. Red for a question.

So . . . how else can you use a sticky?

Start with the Original. Head over the 3M Post-It Note education page for a ton of ideas.

I’ve always loved the simple History Frame graphic organizer. Integrate stickies into the process by making big, reusable History Frame anchor charts. Then ask kids to use sticky notes to map out a specific historical event’s characters, settings, theme, and outcome.

Maybe you’ve never done this but I have and so have most of your kids. Flip books. Give each kid a pack of sticky notes and ask them to tell a story in Flip Book format. The prompt could be just about anything – a summary of an event, an opinion to a statement, maybe a solution to a problem or a What If history. Have kids work in groups of two or three to expand the story. Extend the activity by asking kids to video their story and add music or sound effects.

A great way to kick start a conversation or historically thinking activity is to ask kids to respond to an opinion question. They’ll use stickies to display their thinking in a chart format. Use poster paper or a white board to highlight a prompt: Was FDR’s response to the Great Depression effective? Was Reconstruction as success or a failure? Was dropping the Bomb the best US option for ending WWII? Ask students to post a vote and/or comment to the white board.

Use Gallery Walks to analyze primary sources, create captions, summarize thinking, provide feedback, or respond to a posted prompt. Assign different colored stickies to different groups. Or give each kid different colors for different types of responses.

Project an image or primary source onto your whiteboard and asks students to use the See Think Wonder idea to post stickies on the whiteboard. You could also project a map or political cartoon and have kids use the analysis worksheets from the National Archives or the Library of Congress to guide their responses.

How about a sticky note card sort? You could use a template to print out vocab, people, places, or ideas directly onto sticky notes. (Or just have kids copy them down themselves.) The whole point of a word sort is to move things around – sticky notes? Perfect for that. I like the idea of having groups of students do this together. Give each group a big poster paper to complete their word sort. Stick these to the walls and have a gallery walk with other groups.

And since sticky notes come in all different sizes and colors, they’re perfect for comparing and contrasting, categorizing, or differentiating. Use the same color or size to highlight similarities or differences. Create a huge Venn diagram for kids to post their thoughts.

Wouldn’t it be great if our kids could just write in the margins of their texts or in the novels we ask them to read? Have them take notes on sticky notes instead. Important stuff, questions, terms, ideas all on their sticky notes. Be sure to help them remember to put the page number and paragraph number on their notes, and then post into their interactive notebook. Even better, use the free Post-It Notes app (see below) to capture these notes so that your kids now have digital copies of them to use anywhere, anytime.

Use the Post-It App

And, yes, sticky notes are analog. And, yes, I’m okay with that. You’re going to find that a lot of your students actually like manipulating the physical sticky notes. Using these sorts of activities is one of those times when paper and pencil is a good thing.

But you can always ramp up the SAMR level of sticky notes with the very cool Post-It app. This free app works on mobile phones and tablets, on Chromebooks, and on Macs. It lets you and your students capture their work using the analog, physical sticky notes they’ve created to generate digital sticky notes. Using the app to take a picture of student work on the sticky notes allows the app user to rearrange digital versions of their notes as needed. This gives you and students the ability to extend the learning beyond the initial classroom activity. Kids can add to the information that’s already been captured, share their notes with others, use as a reflection piece, and add this content to other products.

The app lets you share out and export that work as PowerPoint or Excel documents, as a PDF or image file, or to a variety of online storage options. (Though it’s missing a Google Drive export option. Really Post-It Notes?)

Some basic steps in using the app:

  • Complete your analog activity. Make sure that none of the student notes overlap (otherwise the app thinks the overlapping notes are one big note.) You and kids can then use a phone, tablet, or other device to capture the sticky note arrangements. On my Mac, I could have used the default camera but importing a photo from my phone seemed easier. You might find that importing an image rather than using the built-in camera works better on a Chromebook as well.
  • Make sense of the content. The app digitizes each of the notes. You can add extra digital notes and rearrange them by dragging and dropping them into groups.
  • Share your changes. Now share your newly organized board with whoever you want using the built-in export feature. I love this ability to edit and make changes to original thinking. It’s a great way for you to measure learning over time.

The last thing to think about? Create your own classroom specific, activity specific sticky notes by using a template.

A sticky note? As a great learning tool? Yup. Don’t ignore the power of the sticky.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mary Ann Tolbert #

    I love using simple ways in which to have exit tickets as students leave my classroom. I really like the idea of using color coded sticky notes on the door on the way out of the classroom with the sentence starters. Being able to quickly look over the colors provided before even reading the comments or questions will allow me a quick overview of my lesson between classes and then an opportunity during my prep period to read through the post its more thoroughly.

    January 18, 2022

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