Post-It Notes for Sequencing & Answering “When” Questions

I am convinced that if I needed to, I could just do therapy solely with office supplies!  (“Lint-pocket therapy,” I like to call it).

Post-It Notes are among my most essential office-supplies turned therapy-tools for a few reasons.

First, when my data sheets aren’t handy I take data on them.  In a pinch, they serve as hall passes for the junior high kids, “basketballs” for the hoop that is the trash bin, and temporary labels for all sorts of things.  However, one of my favorite things to do with post-it notes is to draw on them.

I am constantly drawing visual aids that are specifically customized to the words my students and I are using.

This impromptu drawing is really helpful for the students that have trouble visualizing and I’ve found it to be a must for those who also have trouble sequencing the events in a story.

This past school year, I worked with a junior high student on the Autism spectrum who came to me with a goal for inferencing.  After trying to target that goal for a couple of months by asking him WH- questions that required good guesses about a story (even a story with a picture), it became clear that he struggled the most with the WHEN questions – particularly those requiring answers using sequencing words like “before” or “after.”  His responses indicated that he was not sequencing the story in his head.  He was taking the order that information was presented in the story to be the order that it happened.

As you all know however, English doesn’t work that way.  (Just think about any film by Quentin Tarantino).   We often start at the end, jump to the beginning, fill in details from the middle, or go in whatever order we please.

I decided that in order to help this student, we needed to back up to the sequencing level.  As we read each thought (phrase or sentence) within a reading passage, we drew it onto a post-it note.  In the beginning, it helped to use very simplistic stories with common actions the student would be familiar with (e.g. stories about getting ready for school, attending a birthday party, etc.).

Once each hand-drawn picture was represented on a post-it note, we worked to put them in logical order (not the order they were presented in the story).  Because we used familiar routines, the student was able to contribute ideas about what usually happens first, next, and last.

I was thrilled that this worked well for the student.  However, he still needed a visual to help him with when to use the terms “before” and “after” to answer questions about the sequenced strand.

That’s when I got the idea to create a tool with clear windows the size of a post-it note that could serve as a guide for how to answer “When” questions requiring “before” or “after” responses.  The tool is placed over the post-it notes (which can be sequenced from left to right or top to bottom).  The image on the post-it note in the center window would represent whatever the question is about and those in the other windows would represent appropriate replies using “before” and “after.”

Eureka!  With the tool, the student got the hang of it and could accurately answer “When” questions about a story using the words “before” and “after,” a skill he could never consistently do before!  It also helped the student to give more relevant answer.  In the past  some of his answers would be technically correct but too far removed in time (e.g., Asking, “When do you blow out the candles on your birthday cake?” and seeing the student answer, “After your mom buys a cake” [which is technically true] instead of “After you make a wish” which is true and comes directly before the event in question).

What’s more, is that using the post-it notes and this tool helped us to not only answer literal questions, but to answer inference and prediction questions as well.  We began to make drawings on post-it notes for not just the details of the story, but to fill in pictures of what had to have happened between the sentences that were written – the sentences we “read between the lines.”

For example, if a story said, “Paula was very hungry.  She looked in the fridge but didn’t see anything.  She called the restaurant and ordered a pizza.  The pizza was great!” then not only would I have a picture for each of those 4 sentences, we’d also have pictures on post-it notes for the “invisible sentences” about her opening the door for the pizza delivery man and paying him the money.

Now with the Before/After Tool over the post-it notes, my student can answer questions about those invisible sentences (the inferences and predictions) because we drew pictures of them as well on the post-it notes.

Perhaps best of all though, is not using the tool and not using the post-it notes!  That’s because after consistent practice with this, I slowly began taking away the tool and then leaving blank spots where some of the post-it notes should have been while leaving others in place, and eventually the student was able to make this process an internal one – sequencing all of the events from the story in his brain the same way we had done on the post-it notes and using the Before/After Tool as a visual in his mined.

We went from post-it note visuals to mental representations!



Link to the “WHEN Questions: BEFORE & AFTER Tool”

"WHEN Questions: BEFORE & AFTER Tool"<br /><br /><br />“WHEN Questions: BEFORE & AFTER Tool” 


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