Bright Ideas: Sticky Note Summaries

Welcome to the Bright Ideas Blog Hop! I am so excited to be participating this month along with countless other talented teacher bloggers to share some of our favorite tips and ideas from the classroom!

This idea is one that I used in Teacher Time (Guided Reading), during independent reading, and even suggested to parents to use for at-home reading:

Sticky Note Summaries

These are simple, easy, and effective, especially if you have a reader who struggles to remember what they read over the course of a chapter book. Some kids just naturally retain information from one chapter to the next, but some kids really start disconnecting from reading in second and third grade because each chapter carries into the next and they simply can't keep it straight.

The supplies you'll need are really quite simple: a chapter book, sticky notes, and a pencil.

I demonstrate this first in Teacher Time/Guided Reading and we begin by reading one chapter from our book. At the end of the chapter, I will pass out one sticky note and have them put the chapter number on the top. We will then brainstorm one sentence that captures the main event/idea from that chapter and jot it down on the sticky note. We'll leave that sticky note on the last page of Chapter 1 and get started on Chapter 2.

When we get to the end of Chapter 2, I'll pass out one more sticky note. Then we'll label it with "2" on the top and jot down one sentence about the main event/idea from that chapter only, leaving it on the last page of Chapter 2... and so on:

When we get to the end of the book, we have quite a few sticky notes that cover the entire book broken up into manageable chunks. I have them take each one out of the book and organize them in numerical order by chapter. We can then review the main events from the story, watched how events unfolded throughout chapters, look for surprises and missed clues, etc. We can also use the information to write a much more cohesive summary without pulling events and ideas from the entire book from thin air.

While this sticky notes do not automatically flow into a complete summary paragraph (in fact, they never have in my case!), there are lots of ways I like to use these to help aid in comprehension and build a student's confidence with chapter books:

  • Reread the previous sticky note(s) before getting started on the next chapter to give them a refresher of what's happening in the book so far
  • Going over the sticky notes alone, with a teacher, or with a reading buddy at the end of the book before writing a polished summary
  • Reviewing the sticky notes before taking a reading quiz to remind them of the main events and flow of the book from beginning to end.
  • Involving parents in reading at home by having them reread the previous sticky notes and getting a general idea of the book so they can hold conversations around the book and know what's happening
  • Involving parents at home by having them help their child come up with a sentence for the sticky note
  • Collecting a student's stack of sticky notes at the end for an informal assessment
  • Having them choose different sticky notes to "dig deeper" in the text, such as finding the problem, solution, favorite part, clues, misinformation, new learning, surprises, questions, etc. 
  • and more!!

What I loved about Sticky Note Summaries was that it started as a way to help my strugglers, but soon some of my advanced readers started using the strategy as well. As one student explained it to me, there was just too much to keep track of in the longer books, so this helped them keep it all straight.

I also noticed it helped my strugglers set an intention for reading each chapter since they knew they had to fill out a sticky note at the end. It kept them more focused on the story and their goals more manageable throughout the course of a book. It's also such a simple strategy, after one round in Teacher Time/Guided Reading, kids are able to complete this on their own with just an occasional check in from me.

I hope this Bright Idea helped and gave you some ways to incorporate sticky notes and Sticky Note Summaries in your students' reading this year!


  1. This is great stuff! I'm thinking perhaps I'll start to model this with my second graders when we read a chapter book together. Thanks for the bright idea!

    Sally from Elementary Matters

  2. Love this! I can't wait to use this on the book we will be starting next week! Thanks!!!

    1. Thanks so much Carol-Ann! I can't wait to hear how it goes :)

  3. Ohmygosh...what a fabulous idea! I can't wait to use this with my students. :)

    Teaching in High Heels

  4. Love this!! I think my high flyers in second could totally do this! Thanks!
    Tori's Teacher Tips

  5. Oh my goodness Stephanie!!!! I LOVE this idea!! What an incredibly easy way to summarize! Thank you so much, I am pinning it this instant! :) :) :)

  6. Stephanie! This is such an amazing idea!!! I need to start doing this with my read aloud book! Sometimes it takes a while for us to finish since we only read 10-15 minutes. a day, so this would be great to help my students remember what has happened in the book!

  7. I do this when I'm reading for my English degree!

  8. I love this! I'm going to start having my LLI groups do this when we do novel studies! :)

  9. Great idea! I can't wait to use this in my classroom. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Love this! Can't wait to use this in my classroom.