George Lucas Educational Foundation

School Of The Future

Grades 6-8 | New York City, NY

Making Sure They Are Learning

Sticky notes coalesce into high-level analytical thinking in Sarah Kaufmann's 6th grade humanities class, where complex concepts are broken down into manageable pieces that help students master challenging assignments.
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Making Sure They Are Learning (Transcript)

Sarah Kaufmann: I think of authentic assessment as my ability to teach each student where they actually are. I'm Sarah Kaufmann. I teach sixth grade humanities at School of the Future. In order to know where they actually are, I have to be able to assess them really specifically and in a variety of ways that are appropriate for that student, so that what I'm doing is every day giving that child an environment where they're challenged, where they feel good about what they're learning and they feel like they're learning.

Stacy Goldstein: What's been amazing to watch in Sarah's class as a sixth grade teacher is also, she just is extremely rigorous in what she demands from the kids. And so her class really has high standards.

Sarah Kaufmann: A lot of that work started with myself when I would think about reading and I would do Post-Its while I read to figure out what I was actually asking the students to do. And that led me to really break down the skill work into smaller pieces so that I could manage it, because if I don't do that, my brain can't focus. So then, what I do is assess the kids on skills on a continuum. So like what we saw this morning was I collected a bunch of the kids' work on Friday. I'd seen their reading labs. I'd seen Post-Its that they'd been making while they were reading that were observing, inferring, you know, visualizing and summarizing. I took that work, I compared it to data I had already collected on the students by, you know, taking a Post-It, comparing it on this continuum. And then I looked over the whole class and I thought about who needs what work where, and then used that to make groups. And then because I made that continuum, I could then pull the lessons that each group needed, so that eventually all of that becomes high level, analytical thinking.

Eamon McCormick: We always work in groups, whether it's working off of writing or working off Post-Its. Like even today, in class, you guys saw how we were working in Post-It groups. It really helps, 'cause you have someone to talk to and they share their ideas, or you can take off theirs, and you can have positive feedback and help a lot.

My name's Eamon McCormick. I'm a sixth grader student at School of the Future.

Student 1: I just borrow Owen's description--

Sarah Kaufmann: I started with kids that were struggling more and or had a more difficult task because of it. So that was the first table I went to. And at that table, I knew that they would need more upfront instruction, because it was a harder skill for them. So then I could start there, but by the time I got to the third table, all of those kids had already done one Post-It. So with the nice thing about that was, it allowed me to first, before I even talked to the kids, knowing that those kids were stronger in that work, I could then look and see what they had done before even speaking to them. Giving them multiple opportunities to practice really allowed me while I was going round the class to maybe change the plan as needed. I try to structure a lotta time that way, so that they have a little practice first, and then I can assess it as qui-- if possible.

Eamon McCormick: It's really great to just think about what we've been reading, and it just lets you like recap and not forget anything and find the real purpose of what's going on. And it lets you like get the true meaning out of the book.

Sarah Kaufmann: Eamon is a really strong student. You know, in class today, he was talking about how he was really struggling to feel like he could find depth there in his thinking process. And it was like, "Well, what if we observe characters across books and in patterns? Like what are we seeing over and over and over again, and we use that as the basis of your observation work? What does that free up?" So even though he's very bright and like, you know, very capable, he's still eleven, you know. And like there's still things that he need to work on. I do as much as I can to make him feel like he's got something new to try that day.

>>In eight minutes is when you're going to have a break to talk to a partner, to tell them, "What are you going to write on your Post-It that matches the work at your table?"

Stacy Goldstein: She's an amazing sixth grade teacher, because she really pushes the reading, she pushes the volume of writing and reading her class is amazing. I think it's made such a difference in the tone that like has come

on-- off of the kids after they leave here to seventh and eighth. Like it establishes that tone that we were reader and writers in here and continues that a lot from elementary school, but really takes it to the next level.

Sarah Kaufmann: I've seen a lot of success as a teacher with kids who are really, really struggling. And they're so relieved that someone finally validated the fact that they are working really hard and it doesn't make sense. And then you can say, "Great, let's work on making it less hard, and like, here's how we're gonna do it." And as long as I think you have a plan, kids feel okay. It's when you just sorta like, "Yeah," and then you don't have a plan for them, that they really struggle. But when you have a plan and they go, "Oh, great, you've thought about this. You care about me. You know what I need. You're gonna help me." And then they can just allow themselves to do the work that they need to do.

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This installment of Schools That Work was produced in collaboration with The Digital Learning Group.

Comments (13) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Carolyn's picture
11th Grade English Language Arts Teacher from Kentucky

Could you tell me specifically which resource the teacher was using while they were reading and using the post-it notes? How does that work exactly.? It looked wonderful!

gladys smith's picture

It's intersting learning about one's self, and at the same time receiving educatial materials to improve self. The material was quiet inspiring, and motivational.

Jose Antonio Del Moral's picture
Jose Antonio Del Moral
Jr.High-High School English teacher from Mexico City, Mexico

I would have never thought about using post-it notes as part of my everyday teaching. I guess I will try it out with my 11th-12th students this term.

amerced's picture

I love post-it notes and use them all the time with my second graders! :) If you have access to an iPad you should look into the app entitle, Confer, it will make your data collection MUCH easier and faster! ;)

Jennie W.'s picture
Jennie W.
7th grade Language Arts

I would love to use post-it notes more often, but how do teachers afford to buy so many all the time? I have 130 students. Any ideas? (I am not selling my first-born.)

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture

Hi Jenny W.!

We know that teachers spend WAY too much money out-of-pocket on supplies for their class. While I don't have any resources specifically about sticky notes, we have a few older articles that are still chock-full of information on how to get free stuff for your classroom, or raise money for larger projects. Check it out:

How to Get Free Teaching Materials --

Wish List: Donated School Supplies Are Just a Click Away --

Hope that helps!

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Confer looks awesome. I'm going to buy that app tomorrow and try it out. I need something to help organize my reading conference information.

Sticky notes not only MOTIVATE my first and second graders to interact with text, but also interact more effectively. It seems silly, but it works. We use sticky notes often in grades 1-2. We use them for flagging parts of a text or for making short comments about the text. We sometimes use chart pack paper in order to have students stick their notes onto a chart or sort them as a group. The minute I call for using sticky notes student engagement increases even more- every time.

With 3rd grade students I've used tape flags by sticking them on a notecard students use as a bookmark. Students flag text or words that they wanted to ask questions about later. They are more reusable than stickie and work great for flagging things, but unfortunately don't allow for writing much. We called them hotspots.

While teaching a 2-3 class, I did a collaborative research project on animals using stickies. Students recorded facts on color coded sticky notes based on category- one fact per note. They recorded dozens of facts per category. Then before creating their research field guides, partners were able to collaboratively plan their field guide sections and paragraphs by easily rearranging the sticky note facts.

janet's picture
HS Spanish teacher

Post-it also came out with a brand new app called post-it that can be used to scan post-it notes, group them, etc

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