In Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, authors Kylene Beers and Bob Probst introduce “signposts,” features that help students better understand any literary text. Today's blog post seeks to answer, "What are these signposts?"
“Just as rigor does not reside in the barbell but in the act of lifting it, rigor in reading is not an attribute of a text but rather of a reader’s behavior—engaged, observant, responsive, questioning, analytical. The close reading strategies in Notice & Note will help you cultivate those critical reading habits to make your students more attentive, thoughtful, independent readers.”
—Kylene Beers and Bob Probst
In developing the signposts, Kylene and Bob identified features that reoccur in commonly taught texts. For example, they found that the author of Among the Hidden indicated the protagonist’s internal struggle by having him ask himself questions. They then researched whether this technique occurred in literature generally.
“We started rereading to see if this feature occurred in other books.”
They developed these criteria for determining whether a text feature is prominent enough to stop and teach:
- It has some characteristic that makes it noticeable, that causes it to stand out from the surrounding text.
- It shows up in a majority of the books teachers frequently teach.
- It offers readers who notice and reflect on it something that helps them better understand their responses to the text, their reading experience, and their interpretation of the text.
Features that met these criteria became the six signposts of Notice & Note:
1. Contrasts and Contradictions:
Sharp contrasts between what we expect and what we observe characters doing.
2. Aha Moments:
Characters’ realizations that shift their actions or understanding.
3. Tough Questions:
Questions characters raise that reveal their inner struggles.
4. Words of the Wiser:
Advice or insights wiser characters, usually older, offer about life to the main character.
5. Again and Again:
Events, images, or particular words that recur throughout a text or an essential portion of it.
6. Memory Moments:
Recollections by a character that interrupt the forward progress of the story.
“We think that these signposts show up in novels because they show up in the world,” write Kylene and Bob.
When a signpost is identified, teachers pose an anchor question. For example, if a student notices words or images repeated again and again, her teacher might ask, “Why do you think the author keeps bringing these up?” In answering these follow-up questions, students begin to infer or make connections.
Kylene and Bob suggest additional anchor questions throughout the book, as well as provide six detailed lessons that help teachers introduce the signposts to their students. Examples drawn from commonly taught texts such as Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and Joan Bauer’s Hope Was Here make teaching these signposts easy and help teachers and students approach close reading with the rigor of lifting a barbell.
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Kylene Beers and Bob Probst are the coauthors of Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading. Their follow-up book, Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Signposts and Questions, will be released in Fall 2015.