One of the most important skills I teach my students as we begin to work on close reading is how to annotate texts. Teaching annotation strategies will help students keep track of key ideas while reading.
ANNOTATING TEXT STRATEGIES
Annotating a text is when the reader “marks up” a text to indicate places of importance or something they don’t understand. Sometimes students annotate by circling a word, underlining a phrase or highlighting a sentence. Annotating also includes writing notes in the margin; these notes might be thoughts or questions about the text. This process of annotating helps the reader keep track of ideas and questions and supports deeper understanding of the text.
BENEFITS OF ANNOTATING A TEXT
The benefits of annotation include:
Keeping track of key ideas and questions
Helping formulate thoughts and questions for deeper understanding
Fostering analyzing and interpreting texts
Encouraging the reader to make inferences and draw conclusions about the text
Allowing the reader to easily refer back to the text without rereading the text in its entirety
ANNOTATING WITH A PURPOSE
Students are taught to read with a purpose, and they should also be taught to annotate with a purpose. Teaching students to annotate with a purpose will help them focus on what is most important about the text.
When teaching annotation I instruct students to use the following symbols:
Underline key ideas and major points.
Write a ? next to anything that is confusing, such as unfamiliar words or unclear information.
Circle key words or phrases.
Put an ! next to surprising or important information or information that helps you make a connection.
MODEL FOR ANNOTATING A TEXT
Explain to students that the annotations of skillful readers identify what they don’t understand and point out major facts or ideas they want to remember and use in their discussions and writing. Caution students that over-annotating will be confusing rather than helpful.
Below is a model for annotating a text which uses the poem The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt.
My students have enjoyed using this poem as an introduction to the close reading of poetry and the skill of annotating. I follow-up the poem by reading the picture book The Spider and the Fly by Tony DiTerlizzi. After reading the picture book, I have my students do an activity called 'Sentence-Phrase-Word.'
Here's what they do:
Select a sentence that was meaningful.
Pick a phrase that moved, engaged or provoked you.
Choose a word that captured your attention or struck you as powerful.
The students then get in small groups or partnerships to discuss their choices.
FREE PRINTABLE ANNOTATION EXAMPLES FOR STUDENTS
PRINTABLE ONE: ANNOTATING A TEXT PRACTICE SHEET, GRADES 6–8
Annotating a text helps students identify questions, confusing language, and important ideas or words that support their deepened understanding. As they keep track of their thinking, students will make connections with what they are reading.
Help students learn how to annotate a text and master this close reading element with the Annotating a Text Practice Sheet.
PRINTABLE TWO: MODEL FOR ANNOTATING A TEXT, GRADES 2–5
Download my Model for Annotating a Text which uses the poem The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt. The download includes an instructional tip sheet and annotation examples for students. You can make individual copies for your students to keep handy, or enlarge the annotation example to a poster size and hang it in the classroom!
Teaching your students how to annotate with a purpose will help them keep track of key ideas, and will help them formulate thoughts and questions they have while reading. It also encourages the reader to make inferences and draw conclusions about the text, as well as, make interpretations on a deeper level. Annotating allows the reader to easily refer back to the text without rereading the text in its entirety.
My downloads today will be important resources for your students as they begin to annotate texts.