“The sticky note is one of the most useful tools for knowledge work because it allows you to break any complex topic into small, moveable artifacts—knowledge atoms or nodes—that you can distribute into physical space by attaching them to your desk, walls, doors, and so on without wreaking total havoc. This allows learners to quickly and easily explore all kinds of relationships between and among the atoms and to keep these various alternatives within your visual field while you are working.”

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo


Sticky notes have been a classroom fixture for quite some time, but insights shared by thinkers like Gray, Brown, and Macanufo invite teachers to consider the power of the Post It in ways they may not have before.

Here’s what experience has taught me: many readers, particularly those who lack confidence and those who struggle, find themselves daunted by text. Regardless of how we approach the reading experience, when these kids confront a page full of words, they either play it safe and bob along the surface or obediently apply the strategy assigned. When none of this works, some begin exhibiting brilliant avoidance behaviors.

The reading habits that Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts speak to in Falling in Love with Close Reading have provided great support for the readers I work with inside of schools and through our intervention programs at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio.

And so have sticky notes.


When readers approach text with a lens, as Lehman and Roberts suggest, and when they capture each piece of evidence they gather on its own sticky note, dense texts are broken into bits of knowledge that are far easier to analyze, manipulate, and synthesize. Most importantly, when readers isolate bits of evidence from the whole of a text, they are able to consider each bit with depth and connect and reconnect it with other bits, surfacing uncommon and varied insights that make for rich discussion and far more sophisticated meaning-making.

Want to try this in your own classroom but uncertain how to begin?

I’ve been testing a variety of approaches with K-12 readers over the last few years, and I’ll be sharing some of the lessons that kids found most helpful right here starting tomorrow.

If you can’t wait, this post is also a good starting point.



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