Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Red Light, Yellow Light Adaption

Connect: This year I am trying to integrate literacy as much as possible into my classroom. One way I am doing this is through a combined lesson on Friday's with Jaime Jackson's class.  We decided to use our subscription to 'Scholastic News' and 'Time For Kids' to help facilitate these lesson and called it 'Non-Fiction Friday's'.  Last year I had done something similar with Val Beckler, but this year we decided to use this time to incorporate some of the thinking routines from PLC's in order to give more structure to this time.  We have tried several and our favorite soon became "Red Light, Yellow Light."  It had many of the elements we really want our students to look for as they are reading, especially in non-fiction.

What I did: The red light, yellow light thinking routine involves having students identify what makes them stop while they are reading and what make them think during their reading.  We decided to be very specific in naming what we want them to identify and adapt the routine just a little to make it fit better into our classrooms.  We added a green light so that it had all the colors of our behavior system and used colored post-it notes to make it more visual for our students.  For red, we wanted students to stop and think about the main idea of the article.  "What was the authors purpose for writing this piece?" For yellow, students wrote one question or wondering they had while reading.  "What did this article make you curious about?" Finally, for green, students wrote one thing they learned from their reading.  "What is something new you didn't know before you read this?"
Each Friday we group students up with a buddy.  This changes each week, but they normally pair with a student from the other class in order to promote a cohesiveness between our two homerooms.  Each pair gets three sticky notes (red, yellow and green) and they work together to read the article and write the main idea, question/wondering, and identify what they learned.

Extend:  In order to really make this routine effective, we have used it (so far) for a total of 13 weeks!  Now it truly has become a routine and the students are able to identify each part of their thinking easily.  Their questions are becoming deeper and you can really see their thinking becoming more collaborative.

Challenges:  In the beginning the challenge was having students slow down and identify each part of their thinking.  Over time, the process began to really take shape through modeling, collaboration and class discussions.  On Fridays the modeling takes much less time and even though we review the 3 elements, the students are leading the discussions more and more because they are very comfortable with the routine.  The biggest success is the amount of time we have used and developed this routine.  It helps me take a step back when starting new ones realizing that after practice, they too will improve and begin to show the results I was expecting the first time!


  1. I am going to eventually post about this routine, but I just wanted to add that YES, doing this routine routinely is what has made all the difference to our kiddos. I've especially noticed the change in their yellow light wonderings. After a few weeks of not accepting surface questions, their wonderings have become so much deeper. This weekly routine will serve as a great reminder that these things can take a lot of practice to get the results we're looking for.

  2. Wow! I am so impressed by the collaboration and ROUTINE you two have developed! And what a cool way to get your kids working with others, but in a structured way! I am sure that you can now just sit back and observe! I love, too, that this routine has been connected to a specific genre of reading for the kids. I am sure that over time (if not already) the kids will connect these ideas and questioning to other nonfiction reading they do. How powerful! I am going to try this with my reading groups! I think I might even jump in with my kiddos from your two classrooms! I am so impressed!!

  3. Thanks Shannon for showing me a great way to get the students to read, digest, analyze and synthesize the information available to them each week in their Scholastic News. I'm hoping that as students use this each week, it will become part of who they are as problem-solvers. In the information age it is imperative that students become informed consumers of what they are reading, seeing and being told so that they learn how to weed out the extraneous and unsubstantiated facts to focus on what is important, useful and fact based.
    Toto, I don't think we're in a black and white world anymore.