When I was a sophomore in high school I was assigned selections from Hamlet to read in my English class. I read it, understood it, and took notes in the margins as I was asked to do. But the following day I was told I didn’t have “enough” annotations and was assigned a detention (a Friday Evening Inconvenience – it was boarding school).
But what is “enough” when it comes to annotation? As a college student I think I finally learned to annotate so that my thinking – at the time I took the note – was clear to me when it came time to use the note.
I think that, as teachers, we need to help students connect to the text through annotation. This starts with how we select the text and how we select the assign the annotation. We have to give them clear guidelines and support. Annotation is a skill that needs to be developed
Chunk – How can you break up longer texts?
Purpose – What’s the learning objective? Make this explicit to the students so you can all begin with the end in mind
Quantify – How many comments do you expect per paragraph, per page?
Notations – What do you want to see in the margins? Symbols, questions, definitions, specific connections? Symbols or color coding should include a key each time.
Rereads – When you need them to reread for fluency or in a coaching group, give them a different purpose or lens for the next read
We can use technology or low tech tools to support students through universal design.
- Color coded sticky notes with questions or comments written on them
- Hypertext annotation to definitions, expansion of ideas, etc.
- Kami – potential shared annotation
- Google Docs – comments in the margins
- A document camera will allow you to model the annotation, with out-loud metacognitive thinking about why and how you are annotating, for students. Some document cameras will allow you to record the whole thing for playback later.