Tools for Independence | Study Skills | Semiotics


• to scaffold students’ note taking • to help students develop study skills • to help students develop organizational skills • to connect class work to assessment and evaluation • to build knowledge of academic writing • to build motivation to take notes and study • to build motivation to participate in class • to give students a purpose to take notes and pay attention in class • to develop reflective thinking • to enable students to reflect on class content • to enable students to reflect on their own learning • to scaffold students ability to become independent learners and thinkers • to aid in the “gradual release of responsibility”

• to build motivation to participation class • to build motivation to be responsible for their class materials • to give students practice finding and evaluating information • to minimize test anxiety • to increase higher levels of questioning and thinking on tests (from Bloom’s knowledge to analysis and synthesis) • to practice the gradual release of responsibility model

• when I see them creating word/definition study lists for vocabulary tests and actually studying the lists they created before the test • when I see them answering test questions without flipping through their AJs • when I see that they have internalized study skills and are able to use them indepen dently (mapping, review notes, highlighting notes, flash cards, etc)

WHAT IF? • A student loses his or her AJ? Then they have to borrow someone’s and recopy the notes they’ve lost. I do not provide duplicates. The student is responsible for recreating his or her AJ even if it is stolen. • A student forgets his or her AJ on test or quiz day? Then they can not use it as a resource and they have to take the test without it. • Students are not taking notes in their AJ during class? Then they won’t have those notes to review and use come test or quiz time. I do remind students to write things down, but I do not grade them on their AJs. © Lee Ann Spillane

Call me, AJ!
That’s short for Academic Journal. I’m here to help you get organized! Use me to take notes in class and to keep track of your thinking. Keep up with me and be sure to take notes and write down information in class because you can use me on tests and quizzes!

I want my student learners to . . .
• develop a rich word bank • develop a sense of word play • practice a variety of word attack strategies • feel safer during tests (less test anxiety) • internalize how to prepare for tests • practice a variety of writing strategies: prewriting, brainstorming, outlining, etc. • internalize a variety of note taking skills • develop a sense of discovery • note and practice reading strategies • build a strategies reference bank for themselves • write, write, and write some more • develop writing fluency • practice self-assessment and self-questioning • practice recording their own learning

Divide AJ into these sections using dividers or sticky notes:
1. 2. 3. 4. Vocabulary - about 30 pages Class Notes - about 30 pages Strategies - about 30 pages Reflections - last 5 pages • What am I learning? (list) • What have I learned? (list) 5. Books I Have Read (list) - last two pages

Clip and Paste in the front cover of your AJ!

Here’s a little more about what to write in each section: Vocabulary
word of the day notes word storms language collections vocabutoons word wall notes

HOW DO I ASSESS STUDENTS? When I look at students’ AJs, I . . • notice what they do spontaneously.
Do they spontaneously write down headings for their notes? Or do I need review organization tips. Do they write in “note shorthand”? Or do I need to scaffold their note taking by color coding what I put up for them? DO they refer to their AJs for answers? Or are they still dependent upon me?

Class Notes
• notes or writings about the books we read • notes about grammar or writing • think writes • notes on MLA format & citing sources • any notes that give you information

• any notes that tell you how to do something • notes on how to visualize what you read or how to connect to what you read • notes on reading strategies (predictions, questions, connections, etc) • notes on writing strategies (brainstorming, selecting a topic, generating material, etc)

• look for patterns.
What kinds of notes/words are they actually writing down? What more do they need? Are they reading different genres? Are they able to write about their own learning? Do they use the language of the state standards in their reflections? What kinds of “teacherlanguage” have they internalized?

• Dear Mrs. S letters about what you have learned • your thinking about your progress • two lists: What am I learning? and What have I learned?

Books I Have Read
• Keep a running list of all the books that you finish reading on your own this school year. Remember my expectation is 25 books for the year! © Adapted from Janet Allen by Lee Ann Spillane

What can you include in an Academic Journal?

Hi! I’m R.J.! That’s Reading Journal to you!
Each week you’re supposed to read at home for an half hour each night. Record the time you read on your Reading Log bookmark. After you read, write responses to your book in me! Use the following heading for each of your responses: Title of the book: Whirligig Date: 8/19/00 Each week you’ll write a response to your reading. Your response may be about the book, a memory sparked by the book, or something that strikes you about the character. You may write several short responses or one long one.
You can choose to: • copy a quotation from the book and comment on it • discuss what confuses you about the book • discuss what you would do differently from one of the characters in the books • compare the book to other books you have read • compare the characters in the book to people you know • predict what will happen next in the book • draw a picture in response to what you read and write a description/explanation of your picture (one picture per week for credit) • create a collage of magazine pictures that relate to the book and write a description/explanation of your collage (one per week) • write a poem in response to the novel (one per week) • find a poem that reminds you of something from the novel, copy the poem into your journal •write a paragraph explaining how you connect the poem to the book you’re reading. Grade EnglishI Honors
Reading/ Writing 2.5 hours/ 2.5 pages 2 hours/ 2 pages 1.5 hours/ 1.5 pages

I want my student readers to . . . • read, read, and read some more
• develop a habit of reflecting and thinking about what they read. • practice making specific connections to the books they are reading. • practice strategies we may have used in class, on their own (e.g.: double entry diaries, visualizing, predicting, questioning). • practice writing about what they read as this is a major component of English 2-4 and beyond.

When I look at students’ journals I . . .

• notice what they do spontaneously.
Do they spontaneously relate the text to themselves? the world? other texts? Do I need to do a making connections minilesson? Do they spontaneously give specific examples from the reading to prove their points? Do I need to model how to incorporate specific examples (that don’t digress into plot summary) into writing?

• look for patterns.
Do they read the same types of books? Do I need to do a mini-lesson on genres and introduce high-interest pieces from a variety of genres? Do I need to book-talk more books? Do they always respond in the same way to what they read? Do I need to model how you respond differently (e.g.: respond to a quote, write a poem about your reading, draw and write about significant scene, etc.) Do they use what we do in class?

Reading/ Writing 2 hrs / 2 pages 1.5 hrs/ 1.5 pages 1 hr. / 1 page


© Adapted from Linda Reif, Seeking Diversity by Lee Ann Spillane

© Lee Ann Spillane

List as many words as you can think of that contain the word part!

© Lee Ann Spillane

Magic Squar
* • scramble a nine letter word that connects to the day’s reading • the letter in the center is “magic” and must be used in each word • model how to generate words from the puzzle for students • give students 2-5 minutes to generate as many words as they can • generate words while students generate words • share by recording many of the words generated on the overhead • transition to daily word study using a word from the puzzle or related word Magic Square Rules: • letters do not have to touch in order to be made into a word • Scrabble rules apply--no abbreviations, no proper nouns • words can be any length as long as they contain the magic letter • letters may not be used twice unless they appear twice in the puzzle * not mathematically sound

is not is is not is

is not is not



is not

is is not


Example Example


What do you notice about this word?

Non-Example Non-Example Non-Example

What questions could you answer about this word?

from our reading

from our experience

from the world
© Adapted by Lee Ann Spillane from Janet Allen, Words, Words, Words, 1999

© adapted by Lee Ann Spillane from Janet Allen, Words, Words, Words, 1999







My Word Wall



Adapted from Allen, Janet. 1999. Words, Words, Words. York, ME: Stenhouse.




LIST OF RELATED CITATIONS “Logs, Academic Journals & Graphic Organizers: Tools That Lead to Independence” Presented by Lee Ann Spillane, Ed.S., NBCT Allen, J. (1995). It’s Never Too Late. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Allen, J. (1999). Words, Words, Words: Teaching Vocabulary in Grades 4-12. York, ME: Stenhouse. Allen, J. (2000). Yellow Brick Roads: Shared and Guided Paths to Independent Reading 4-12. York, ME: Stenhouse. Allen, J. (2002). On the Same Page: Shared Reading Beyond the Primary Grades. York, ME: Stenhouse. Billmeyer, Rachel & Barton, Mary Lee. (2002). Teaching Reading in the Content Areas: If Not Me Then Who?. 2nd ed. Aurora: McREL. Burke, Jim. (2000). Reading Reminders Tips, Tools, and Techniques. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Grow, Gerald O.(1991/1996). “Teaching Learners to be Self-Directed.” Adult Education Quarterly, 41 (3), 125-149. Expanded version available online at: <http://>. Kooy, M. & Wells, J. (1996). Reading Response Logs. Markham, Ontario: Pembroke Publishers. Reif, L.(1992). Seeking Diversity. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Routman, Regie. (1994). Invitations. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Tovani, Cris. (2003). Do I Really Have to Teach Reading? Content Comprehension Grades 6-12. York, ME: Stenhouse. Worthy, Jo; Broaddus, Karen, and Gay Ivey. (2001). Pathways to Independence: Reading, Writing, and Learning in Grades 3-8. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. Zemelman, S. Daniels, H. & Hyde, A. (1993). Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Bibliography Available Online at

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful