How Annotation Reshapes Student Reading
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I wanted to like this article a bit more than I did like it. But, it does contain several elements of really good ideas and reasoning behind annotating as one reads to make the article well-worth consideration.
My only reservations being the tone implying that there is essentially only one way to annotate that is effective and that straying from that "way" is counterproductive. I don't doubt that for the author his or her (?) annotation method are sufficiently effective to justify which elements of annotation and marginalia work and don't work.
And, I have no doubt that for students yet to have discovered the value of annotation, that the suggestions are excellent starting points for incorporating the practice into their reading habit.
And in my own case, I certainly find the case for employing highlighting and marginalia as far more effective than attempting to accomplish similar goals via note taking on paper in a notebook "away" from the original text where one not only has to record thoughts but also has to scribble at least bits and pieces of the text being thought about in order to solidify the connection of thoughts to to text provoking those thoughts.
And, if and when literally used for review purposes, which is a common practice, though in many cases, the act of writing notes and marginalia can be amazingly affective whether reviewed or not, it is for many quite a bit more off-putting to have to read and review ping pong style; shifting one's eyes back and forth between what is written in the book and what is written in a note book about what is written in a book.
Alternate thoughts based upon my classroom observations about annotation strategies...
Yes connecting highlighting with symbols is a great practice. Yet, by highlighting using a color-coding system can often accomplish the same sort of benefit in one-fewer steps. That is perhaps one might create a color code of highlights with a system such as using yellow to highlight one thematic thread, while using blue to highligh a separate thematic thread. Or using one color to represent vocabulary of interest or importantance while using another color to highlight what might be the essential articulation of a paragraph or page's focus. The possibilities are endless. It can be as simple as choosing one color to note topic sentences, another to note evidence, and a third to note commentary. A quick scan of highlights by color and THEN by any textual annotation associated with the highlights of the same color builds a strong bridge between those highlights throughout a reading.
And to a certain extent, I'd agree that marginalia such as "Wow!" can be even richer when notation of the reason for the exclamatory remark is included, though I would not be so presume to suggest that without the additional notation "doesn't warrant taking up space." Wow!" is an indicator of having had a joyful Vygotskian moment so significant that the notation may amount to little more than a redundancy or, perhaps worse, an attempt to guess what a teacher might want one to say about the point.
However, on the other hand, I am much more in agreement when the personal reactions is "Boring!" On one hand "Wow!" is a very personalized connection to a mind opening moment, while "Boring!" is in many ways merely a pre-emptive articulation of one's closed mind moment.
I prefer color coding with RED myself to indicate a passage that I have serious reservations about, YELLOW to indicate passages that I have mixed feelings about and GREEN to indicate passages where I might have written "Wow!" and then if needed, I'd jot just a very brief few words of reminder regarding why I color-coded as I had. In the case of the RED highlights, by defining them as passages I have serious reservations about, I focus more upon the reasoning behind the red highlight than upon a sort of automated no further thought required dismissal.
Why do I use RED, YELLOW and GREEN? Personally the connection to traffic lights helps me remember the meaning I've assigned to the colors. When students asked what they should do if they didn't have a RED (pink) highlighter, I always replied that they could use any colors they wished, I just use these colors because they have a mnemonic impact on me.
The code is personal not prescribed. For example, when I'm working on a Google Lit Trip, I use GREEN to highlight any information of value regarding placemark locations. Why? Green = the color of place; at least often enough that it works for me. I use BLUE to highlight passages where I might be able to find an engaging interet site to explain or supplement references made in a passage. Why? Because traditionally BLUE is the most common color for text links on the internet.
One related strategy I'd suggest for students who express a concern for their ability to concentrate on or remember important elements of a reading assignment, was the use of tiny post-its. Rather than suggest that they should pay closer attention or worse that they really "ought to be able to read at a level where this shouldn't be an issue, I'd suggest that they try the following for just 3-4 reading assignments.
As soon as you get to the end of a page, or possibly the end of a two page spread, STOP and jot on a post-it as few words as need to remind you of what plot element(s) occurred on that page or spread.
Don't worry about spelling, complete sentences, or grammar. Just pause and note as you go. In fact, I tell them that I won't even check to see if they've done this. I'll only note whether they happen to be participating more often in class discussions.
Invariably, by intentionally interrupting the attention drift at consistent brief intervals and designing that interruption to be as short as possible by removing concern for spelling, grammar etc., attentiveness is enhanced signficantly. And, I was always amused by the students who after only a couple of days confess to me that they actually have "discovered a short cut." It usually sounded something like this....
"Hey Mr. Burg, Guess what! I figured out a way to do this even faster. Instead of reading a page and then stopping to think about what I would write on the post-it before reading the next page, I started thinking about what I would write on the post-it WHILE I was reading the page so that I didn't have to stop and think about what I would write before I wrote the post-it note."
Always proud of having figured out a short cut, I always grinned at their "discovery," patted them on the shoulder and congratulated them for discovering "the secret."
So, I guess my bottom line on this particular article is that it is well-worth reading as it does focus upon extremely valuable strategies and offers several quite logical rationales for the practice of annotation while reading. My only concern is the tone suggesting that one shoe can fit all feet. Or, perhaps that regardless of size, one shoe style is the right shoe style for everyone.
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