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September 14, 2010 Reading and Critical Thinking: Stop and Think, Then Jot! By Danielle Mahoney
Grades 3–5


    Your classroom library is organized and well stocked. You're ready to launch your first unit in reading. Making decisions on the appropriate strategies to include in your unit is essential for the success of your students. This may happen during grade meetings or curriculum planning. Why not add some, "Stop and Think, Then Jot!" strategies to your reading unit to boost the level of critical thinking and comprehension in your classroom?




    Reading Isn't Just Turning the Pages!

    Some readers may chuckle as they read a book independently. Others may say, "The character in this book is just like the character in the book I was reading yesterday."  Signs that these students are thinking critically as they read are beginning to emerge. Other students may take a book off of a shelf, flip through the pages, and have a difficult time simply retelling what they just read. We have to make our students aware that reading isn't just turning the pages! Readers need to be actively thinking as they read. Modeling strategies on how to monitor what you are reading by stopping and thinking is essential to building comprehension. 



    How Might This Look in the Classroom?


    StwHere are a few examples of thinking stems that you can model for each strategy. Many more can be found in an amazing teacher resource, Strategies That Work. Encourage your students to use the same language in their Reader's Notebooks as they do in their conversations with a partner.



    Readers Can Stop and Think, Then Jot About . . . 

    What they picture in their mind.


    • I can see . . .
    • I visualized . . .
    • The movie in my mind shows . . .
    • I could see, taste, feel, hear, smell . . .

    What they wonder.


    • Why? How? Will? Is? Who?
    • I'm confused . . .
    • I don't get . . .

    What they think.


    • I think ________ because _______.
    • I'm guessing that . . .
    • I predict  ________ because ________.

    What they feel.


    • I feel _______ because _________.
    • I can't believe . . .
    • I felt _______when _________ because ________.

    What they find interesting.


    • Wow! ____________
    • It's incredible that __________ because _________.
    • I was surprised when __________ because ___________.
    • I didn't know that ____________.






    What they can connect to.


    • I understand how ______ felt because I __________.
    • __________ reminds me of ____________.
    • In my book ____________. In my life ____________.
    • Words in my text / My connection to another text
    • Words in my text/ My connections to a person, an event, or an issue

    Get a feel for the needs and strengths of your students and make adjustments to the strategies and thinking stems as needed. Before you know it, a common language will be heard throughout your classroom that shows just how much your students comprehend as they read.

    Where Do You Stop?

    When reading a picture book, you may want to model how to stop and think at the end of a page or two. If you are using a chapter book to model a strategy, you'll want to model how to stop after a paragraph and at the end of each chapter. Giving out a Stop and Jot Bookmark with the reminder to "Stop and Think, Then Jot," can help push students to practice the strategy you taught that day. Cut the bookmark template down the middle, and they'll have one to practice with their reading at home as well.  If you have students who continue to breeze through books without stopping and thinking, pulling them out for small group work can give them the extra support they need. Hand them a post-it note and model how to plan on where to stop before they begin to read.  They can place the post-it on the bottom of the page or at the end of a paragraph and then read until they get to the post-it. This will be their cue to stop and think, then jot! Once kids get the hang of actually stopping to think about what they are reading, they will get into their own rhythm and stop when needed. 

    Reinforce With Positive Feedback!

    At the end of each reading lesson, make your rounds to be sure that you give your students some feedback on their work. You may write comments like, "Great connections!" or "You were really thinking!" in their notebooks to let them know that they are on the right track. If you see the need for extra support or a lack of stop and jots from a particular student, you might want to use comments like, "Reread this part and imagine what might be happening," or "Let's work together on making connections."  This feedback is important and something they will look forward to each day.

    I hope that you will try out some of these strategies in your own classroom. Angela Bunyi posted some incredible thinking stems for grades 3–5 in a recent post that you'll want to check out as well.  There are so many ways to encourage your students to be critical thinkers as they read independently. Come back and share some thinking stems that have worked for you!





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