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What makes a good reader? Take a moment to ponder this question. Think about readers' habits, their actions, and their attitudes towards text. What attributes do good readers share? Did you say, "Good readers appreciate text."? Or maybe you stated that good readers connect deeply with text? Perhaps you thought that good readers can analyze text? No matter what your response, we all know that there is a special "something" that proficient readers have in common. If we could just harness that "something", we could teach it to other students so they can experience that same deep appreciation of text.

Comprehension and connection are the keys to help students cultivate the love of reading. Something magical happens when students fully comprehend and deeply connect with text. It opens the door for better appreciation of the written word and encourages students to explore text more intensely.

There are several strategies that help students become lovers of literature and deeply comprehend text. Some such strategies are visualizing, sketching, and annotating the text. Let's delve into annotation as way to help students deeply comprehend text.

Annotating Text

Annotating text is a powerful strategy that aides in reading comprehension. It happens when readers "mark up text" using symbols and abbreviations that hold meaning to the them. Do you remember when you took your textbook and wrote notes in the margins, highlighted important information, underlined words that you thought were significant, and circled sections that you needed to read again? Well, that's annotating! Annotating is a way to interact with text so that the written word and the reader become one. The text, which was once aloof and distant, can now be approachable and friendly because readers actively engage in connecting with the text.

Let's Teach It!

Step 1: Teach Common Annotation Symbols!

  • Question Mark: Use the question mark for a confusing section of the text or when the reader has a question about something the text states.

  • Heart: Use this symbol to indicate a section of the text that the students truly enjoy.

  • OMG: Text language/abbreviated language is perfect for annotating text! Use OMG for surprising or suspenseful sections of the text.

  • Chain link: Use the chain link to indicate text to text, text to self, or text to world connections. Have kiddos briefly jot down the actual connection made.

  • Create Your Own: Allow kiddos to make annotation their own.. they can use their own symbols. Be sure to remind them to create a "key" for their symbol!

Step 2: Choose Engaging Text!

When choosing the first piece of text to model and practice annotation, remember to make it engaging. The text should be on the average instructional level for the class and it should be a text that the class will enjoy. While annotation should be done with every genre, poetry is an excellent genre in which to introduce the skill. Poetry is short, evokes emotion, and conveys veiled messages that lie just below the surface of the text. Think Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein!

Step 3: Tangible Access to Text!

Annotation requires that students have text in front of them that they can write on and mark up! Remember the reader is actively engaged in connecting with the text. So give each kiddo a copy of the text--to keep! Do your kiddos have access to digital text? Great! Many digital texts have options that allow students to interact with text such as highlighting and underlining. If not? No worries! Snip the text into Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides and use the drawing feature to engage with the text. Head's up: Allow students to use their colored pens, colored pencils, or highlighters for this activity. Remember our goal is for the text and the reader to become one! What better way to do that than to allow students to choose their own colors and be creative?

Step 4: Model, Model, Model!

Let me say it one more time for the people in the back of the room....MODEL! So... you have your annotating marks, engaging text, and colored pens...Now what? It's time for you to sit in front of that document camera and model annotation with the class. After you have stated your learning intention, it's time to dive in. If you are starting with poetry, read the first stanza aloud, while reading the first stanza....interrupt yourself and make your own connections and thoughts visible to the class! You do this by actually saying the things that you are thinking about the text as you are reading the text. (this instructional strategy is called think-aloud). Be sure to add your own annotations to the text! You might consider modeling at least two stanzas before you invite the class to join in and do it WITH you. Guide kiddos along asking them for their own thoughts and connections about the text as you are engaging in the text together.

Step 5: To Infinity and Beyond!

After you have modeled how to annotate AND the students have had ample opportunity to annotate text WITH you, it's time to let them work continue independently (or in pairs). They need to engage in the productive struggle that produces insight. Once you introduce annotating text, be sure to engage in the practice at least two to three times a week. Students should become so familiar with annotation that it becomes second nature.

Let's cultivate the love of reading in our classrooms. Annotation is an important key in helping students unlock the love for reading.

Make magic happen!

Your ELA Coach,

Allison Rene'e

You don't have to do this alone...Let's take this Journey...Together!

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