Teaching students how to annotate text can be an intimidating task. Likewise, for our students, annotating text can be equally as daunting, especially if they don’t have a process of their own that works or steps to follow.
When I teach my students how to annotate text, I use these simple steps to break down the process into a manageable task for my students. There are also a variety of strategies that I use when I teach and model students how to annotate text.
Before I have my students annotate text, I want them to get an overall feel for the text. I have them look at and read headlines, subheads, pictures, captions, headings, graphs, and pull-out quotes. It is also helpful to have a classroom discussion to activate prior knowledge about the topic of the text.
Step 2: Read a Small Section of Text
Since close reading and text annotation can be a daunting task, I have my students only focus on a small portion of it at a time. This makes the task less intimidating for students. It also enables them to focus more closely on a section of text rather than get lost in the entirety of the text. When we first begin annotating at the start of a new school year, we typically just focus on one paragraph at a time. By doing so, this helps build student confidence.
Step 3: Annotate the Section You Read
Once they’ve read the small section, I provide my students with (or encourage them to) go back and annotate the section they’ve just read. As they become more confident in their close reading and text annotation skills, students will incorporate steps 2 and 3 together, but as they are learning and practicing the skill, I’ve found that students annotate more thoroughly when they read and then annotate.
Step 4: Review Your Annotations
It is essential to have students go back and review their annotations. This reinforces the process that the students are completing, as well as gives them an opportunity to review their annotations and margin notes so that they gain a better understanding of the text. One way that I like to review annotations in class is to have students partner up after completing individual annotations. In partner groups, they share their notes with one another. This is especially helpful if you have students partner up two different times. They will get to see annotations from two other students.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4
As students work through the text, they will complete steps 2-4 until they finish annotating the entire document. As students near the end of the document, they will become more confident in their annotating abilities.
While annotating all different types of text generally follows these steps, there are a few different things that I do when I teach my students how to annotate fiction, annotate nonfiction, and annotate poetry. I’ve included all of these lessons and resources in an Annotating Made Simple Bundle.