I’ve written about annotation already. I think it’s a really important skill to have and to teach regardless of what the subject matter is. I think it’s an especially important skill to teach if you’re teaching English, because so much of English revolves around analyzing and talking about texts. And at the end of the day I like to consider myself a pretty decent annotator. I’ve had a lot of practice, and I’ve come up with techniques that definitely work for me. But there’s one pretty massive thing I struggle with. I don’t like writing in books.
As an English major and a future English teacher, this is kind of a big deal. In these areas of life we annotate our books to remember what we felt and what we thought so we can share it with others. And I don’t like to do that.
I have no problem with putting sticky notes in my books. Nor do I have any problems with writing on articles and print outs. But I have a really hard time actually writing in a book.
I think it stems from growing up an absolute book lover. Writing in books has always kind of seemed like defacing them. It’s always made me cringe and squirm.
I’m working on it. I have certain books I allow myself to annotate in. Maybe one day I’ll be a full fledged annotator.
What’s your stance on annotating?
Annotation is something tricky, and it’s something that everyone has to develop their own style for. We as teachers can provide different samples and guidelines of annotations for students to look at and use as they see fit, but students need to find a method that really works for them, or they won’t use it and the point of annotation will be defeated.
I think that annotation is an important skill, so students developing their own effective and understandable method is important. Annotation ties in closely with close reading, which I’ve written about here and here.) And I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be in any level English class and not know how to annotate. We are constantly asking students to talk about the text, relate to the text, cite the text, and for them to do that well they need to be able to refer back to the text and know what spoke to them. What made their hearts sing and what made them cringe? Annotation is important for this.
Because of all of this, here are some different annotation techniques. Feel free to share your techniques with me in the comments. I’m always looking for new and exciting tips and tricks to use in the classroom and share with my students!
- Highlighting key words and phrases. Be careful not to overhighlight though. Your page will end up covered in highlighter, and you’ll have no idea what you actually wanted to remember.
- Margin notes. This is one of my preferred annotation techniques. I like to write my thoughts and questions in the margins so I can remember them later and use them in discussions.
- Symbols. A lot of people come up with a system of symbols to show what they liked, didn’t like, found interesting, etc.
These are just a few options of what you can do with annotating. Teach your students, but also allow them to teach you and show you what works for them.