Sticky Note Methodology

I developed this method over a decade ago and  it one of the main things that students report back as being so helpful in prepping them for the AP® Exam and all other unit exams.  As any good teacher would do, feel free to copy what might work in your class and tweak things to match your own personality, teaching style, and the type of community and kids you have.

Why Sticky Notes?

  • It is the “happy medium” for my wide range of students. The high level kids can just read the book and understand most of it so why make them write down all content via powerpoint? But, some of my students struggle and need me to explain more of the content which I do via sticky notes.
  • It has a “kinesthetic” effect. The act of writing down info, then pulling it off and placing it on a page helps kids develop brain synapses for learning. 
  • Provides a great study tool for the AP® Exam. It had pictures, graphs and vocab all there with sticky notes to help guide them as to what’s important on each page. 
  • Kids like it. Its different and novel and kids need variety from their other classes. 
  • And, they really learn from it. 
    Post-AP exam survey results. Sticky-notes has consistently rated high among my students for many years on the surveys.

How do you do sticky notes?

This is a page from the Withgott textbook on Acid Deposition.
  • Prepare the sticky-notes ahead of time for your book. Compare to the Course and Exam Description “Essential Knowledge” standards that students must know. 
  • Write down what they need to know on each page without repeating what’s written. This could be vocab, a capture, figure, graph, picture or basic information on the page.
  • Write down information to the appropriate page you textbook doesn’t cover it well. An example above  is BOD-Biological Oxygen Demand. My book doesn’t cover it, so I added it on the page about water pollution on  a sticky notes.
  •  Point out some important facts such as “#1 Culprit of groundwater pollution is underground storage tanks”.

What do students do?

I now flip so my sticky note lectures are on video, but when I lectured in class, I used a document camera and LCD to project. The kids brought in their books to class to copy the sticky-notes down.  I explained the harder concepts and gave examples as we went through each page in the book.  

Pages from Chapter 15 Withgott-water quality

During sticky-notes, I point out what figures and captions are important.  

I expect kids to be able to read the book to obtain  information. On this page, I point out the two items they are expected to know: Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) and Plastic Pollution.

Students can read about these topics in the book and learn.

This page has an important chart and I point out that the kids need to know that Europe is shrinking in population and Subsaharan Africa is growing.

Charts, graphs, figures and pictures along with their captions are super important.

I also added some extra  information about Humus on this page.  

A teacher can easily add information to the appropriate page.

Students now sticky note at home watching the videos on Edpuzzle. I embed questions about what I say in the Edpuzzle so kids have to listen to me explain the information. I also do a physical note-check the day before an exam. You can watch a sample lecture video on Youtube:  Sample Sticky note lecture.

I also now give the option of doing sticky notes on lined paper. Students make a box and write the page number of the sticky note in the box along with the same information. A few students prefer this method, but the majority of my students purchase and use actual sticky notes. 

Some advantages with Sticky-Notes that I’ve found through the years

  • Less writing for students as they don’t have to re-copy the same things that the book says. The sticky-notes tell them what’s important to study on each page.
  • Saves a lot of time as you are not recopying term definitions or diagrams. A sticky note tells them which terms and diagrams are important on each page to memorize.
  • Pinpoints what is important for passing the AP® exam so kids don’t have to study everything in the book. I narrowed it down for them.

Some disadvantages of sticky-notes

  • Kids cannot use “super sticky” or they leave residue in the book which makes the pages stick together for the next student. 
    • Update from May 2017: I discovered this year that rubbing each page with felt or some rough cloth removes the sticky residue. I made all my students do that this year.
  • The books get thick so the bindings can become compromised. I tell kids to use small writing and the least amount of sticky-notes per page. If this is a problem with your school admin., then have the kids copy on notebook paper with page numbers so they can study with their books open and the info written on notebook paper. 
Example of book “thick” from sticky notes.
  • Kids cannot use bright neon-colored notes as they will bleed onto the page in a hot car.
Not allowed
  • Kids have to bring their book to school on days we sticky-note which makes for heavy backpacks and more wear and tear on the books.  Ideally, we should sticky-note every day after reading the section, but I don’t have them do that. Before flipping my class, I had them bring in books about 2-3 days per week only. I told them ahead of time and used Remind texting to help.
  • It’s not the best method for a struggling kid who needs a lot of help and everything explained to them. Fortunately, in my classes, the counselors don’t put many of those students in my course–they really do a great job at placing kids who are “AP® Ready”

(The College Board has something called “AP® Potential”). This doesn’t mean all high-achievers or honors kids. About ⅔ of my kids are average kids who are trying an AP® for the first time.

I recommend really talking with your textbook clerk and/or administration about why this method is so good so they understand why the books might get more wear and tear than normal. I tell them at least the kids are really reading and using my book compared to some other classes. When I started this method of note-taking, my pass rate increased by 10% and has not fallen as I’ve increased in students so I know it works.  

Sticky Note Check while students are doing computer work. I check sticky notes the day before an exam.

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