Posted in Teaching Techniques


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.


Posted in Classroom Ideas, Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

Guided Note Taking

I love the idea of guided note taking. I’ve always been the type of student who wants to write everything in a presentation down; that’s just how I’m wired. And sometimes it’s hard to write down everything that’s on the board and listen to the professor and actually learn something. There are probably many ways to work around the dilemma, but I’m partial to the idea of guided note taking.

Here’s how it works. Make your presentation. Your PowerPoint or Google Slides or whatever it may be. Then make another copy. Take out the really important parts – key words, statistics, diagram labels. Whatever it is. Print out this copy – the one with the blanks. Give that copy to students. Allow them to fill in the important information, but don’t make them worry about the fluff. They’ll take better notes, pay more attention, and really learn the material because they aren’t panicking. (This is my theory at least.)

So give it a shot. See how it works for you. Maybe guided note taking isn’t the best fit. But I think it’s great to try something new, something a little different, and see if there’s a way to make it work. You certainly have nothing to lose.