What did we discover from our conversations after our first “Reading and Writing Project” cycle? We discovered we have a little more work to do in the area helping our students understand how to annotation their text and show their thinking. After reviewing many student work samples (text with annotation and essays), it was noted that our students are keeping their annotations very simple. The papers look great! The words were highlighted on the text and a few phrases and statements were written. But, overall the comments were lower level statements and did not focus on making meaning like grade level readers.
Just a reminder……annotation is not a standard. Annotation is a strategy used to attack complex text. Annotation is a method used to slow down a reader’s thinking and allow for the reader to make their thinking public for their own reflection, conversation points, or writing supports.
For teachers, annotations are meant for review. Annotations are a form or assessment for the teacher to get a quick gist of what the students are comprehending or not. If annotation notes are not being reviewed than they should not be done. Without meaningful feedback regarding a student’s annotation notes, the students can not progress with their reading goals.
Today, if you randomly went into one of our classrooms and asked our students what they are working on during their literacy classes, it would not be unusual for the students to respond with— annotation. But, our end goal would be for the students to be able to verbalize that they are working on reading grade level complex text independently or that they are taking note from a text to be able to site evidence from their text in their conversations or essays.
After reviewing our students’ annotation notes, we agreed as a team that we needed to revisit our thinking about school-wide annotation marks. Although the majority of students were able to highlight unknown words and phrases, there were minimal written notes regarding finding answers, making connections, or identifying evidence to support the author’s claim.
We decided as a team, to create a common annotation chart to use school-wide, that is noted below. Utilizing this common language in all of our classes will create reading routines in the classrooms and allow the students to build on their understanding through using this structure.
We also committed as a team to keep the focus on learning to read complex text using a variety of strategies — yes annotation is one of those strategies– but not the only strategy– and not the ultimate goal of the reading lesson. The end goal for every close reading lesson is that the students can comprehend complex text independently.