The Power of the Post-it Note

(Other sticky notes are available. They’re just not as alliterative!)

Post-it notes
Photo taken from by @vickyloras, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence,

When I first used sticky notes to help a learner get started with a piece of writing, the effectiveness of such a simple activity was clear. After we’d finished, that first learner said,

“I never thought I could write an essay, but now I feel I could write a book!”

The idea is not new but it’s simple and effective: write down each of the points you want to include in your writing on a separate note, then arrange them in the order you want to write about them. If possible, it’s good to have different colours, as demonstrated by Vicky Loras’s photo above πŸ˜‰

As learners get going, the ideas come flowing out. Very quickly, they go from not knowing what to say or how to get started to not only having plenty of ideas but also to knowing what order they’re going to write about them, and to believing they can approach the writing in manageable stages.

I love using this with learners! It’s very motivating, engaging and empowering. I’m really not exaggerating!

Most recently, we’ve been using it with adults with learning disabilities. By using sticky notes to collect and organise ideas, the learners have realised just how much they have to say about a particular topic. They feel much more able to make decisions about what to include or what to leave out – it’s easy to add or remove a note – and they are more confident about being able to expand on these ideas. They are more focused and committed to the activity… and they enjoy it!

As I’ve mentioned, this isn’t a new idea and many of you will have done something similar with learners or in your own writing. Many will have other ways for organising and planning. I just wanted to pass on a bit of my experience of using it with literacies learners and people with learning disabilities. I think it would be particularly useful for people who find getting started difficult, who struggle to get the ideas spinning around their head out on to the paper, or who get overwhelmed with the work ahead of them.

6 thoughts on “The Power of the Post-it Note

  1. “The idea is not new but it’s simple and effective…”

    Love this idea! I’ve recently been working on having my group of beginner-level adult ELL students think about the questions “who” “what” “when” and “where” to help them recount an event or tell a story. This post gave me the idea to use different colored post-it notes (one color for each question word) to help my students organize their thoughts the next time I’m having them work on writing or telling about an event or an experience.

    1. That’s a great idea to use coloured post-it notes to organise thoughts for the telling of a narrative. I might just try that too with my group of adult beginners. Thanks!

      I’d be really interested to hear how it goes.

      And, many thanks for your comment. It’s really good to know that this post sparked off an idea for use with learners.


  2. I absolutely love this idea! I know what I’ll be doing when essay writing time comes around in the next few weeks!

    I’ve also used stickies to help students brainstorm ideas for children’s stories. I use small strips and each color represents a different concept: characters, scene, challenge, solution. It’s a lot of fun to see them move around the possibilities. I’ll see if I can post a picture on Twitter to show you.

    So glad we’ve connected!


    1. Thanks for the comment and the picture, Josette. The activity you’ve used is probably very similar to this one.

      Both allow you to change your mind easily, add things or take them away, and to organise your ideas so that they make sense on paper.

      You don’t have to plan in your head and then represent that planning on paper. You can plan outside of it, holding your ideas on post-it notes as you do it.


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