My previous entry on annotation may have oversimplified things. Although annotation is important, that doesn’t mean it’s EASY. Students often struggle with it, for several reasons which we need to address:
- We fail to establish the rationale for annotating. In fact, failure to establish the rationale/purpose for ANYTHING might be the most common problem I see from the back of classrooms, but the good news is that it is fixable. Stay tuned for my forthcoming entry on “RPM (Rigorous, Purposeful, Measurable) Objectives.” In any case, here’s the question you need to answer: “Why should we annotate?” Keep in mind that “It will help you do well on standardized tests” is not universally motivating. Also, “It’s a good strategy” is inadequate. Strategies in and of themselves are not motivating, and strategies taught without any context seem, well, pointless. Consider students’ goals and interests and how particular strategies can help them.
- We don’t model enough. Showing students once or twice how to annotate is insufficient. Different genres require different approaches. Check out the TLC “Nonfiction Reading Strategies” page for annotation rubrics that target different genres. Note: You don’t have to spend hours and hours modeling. Mini-lessons can work wonders. But keep in mind that you can’t just SHOW models; you have to explain them. Also, as with anything else, it helps to give SPECIFIC feedback on how well students have annotated so that they can improve each time. The question here is “What does effective annotation look like?”
- Students often have limited knowledge of genres. When they don’t know how a text is organized, it’s difficult for them to identify organizational elements. For example, if you don’t know that body paragraphs in informational and persuasive writing should contain a topic sentence, then you won’t look for that topic sentence, and if you don’t look for it, you surely won’t be able to find it. PS—For more information on topic sentences, check out the TLC “Effective Topic Sentences” page. Here are some questions to tackle regarding this problem: “What genre are we looking at? What are the key elements of this genre? What should we look for, and why?”
If you have any ideas, insights, or questions about annotation, please weigh in. I would like for this blog to be more of a conversation, less of a monoblog. :> (PS—Thanks to my friends at Achievement Network Leadership Network Meeting for making me think this morning!)