Signposts for Reading

A signpost is usually found at a crossroads. So says the definition. And in the teaching book Notice and Note, you’re given six avenues — ways to go or topics of conversation. What should we notice in a book? How do we note what we read?

When discussing literature with your students or homeschoolers, consider using Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading.

When discussing literature, there’s often no right or wrong answer. You’re using the signposts to get into the characters of ask the book questions. And questioning is what we want young people to do — in literature and in life. After all, we all have essential questions, such as Who am I? Why am I here? What’s the meaning? The word ‘essential’ has taken on such important meaning this year, with the rise in respect for essential workers.

Have your heard of ‘essential questions?’ When I first started teaching high school five years ago, the department chair told me, “Be sure that you have your Essential Questions posted for all to see somewhere in the classroom.”

I was like, ‘Whaaat?’ I had no idea. I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to have the right — the most essential — questions on my bulletin board. So I did what all teachers do when they don’t know and they don’t want to ask. I googled, “What is an essential question?” And of course, I fell into the rabbit hole of what makes a good question. The more questions I had, the more confused I became. But my mentor at my new school four years ago turned me on to this Notice and Note process. Look for the signposts. Discuss these topics. Yes, one category is called Tough Questions, which to me is the same as Essential Questions.

Ultimately, I decided that an essential question is a deep question — one that that leads to more questions and cannot be answered simply with a yes or no response.

Signposts for understanding

Hey, I love learning about learning. Yes, I’m meta like that!