Cris Tovani wrote a chapter about teaching students how to annotate as a reading comprehension strategy. I’m not sure which book it’s from… Anyway, annotations can be used in any classroom that uses texts. Students can write directly on copied texts or write on sticky notes to place in books they cannot mark up.

Annotations take the form of students jotting down questions they have, what they relate with, and general thoughts. Annotating helps keep students’ minds focused on the reading and then helps them remember what they read when they look over their notes.

Annotations can be used as assessments to see what students are confused about, understand, or relate to when they read. Once the teacher understands what students struggle with, he/she can provide concrete interventions and tactics to help those students. Annotations can be used as a pretest to assess knowledge of a subject and can be used as a basis for mini lessons based on students’ struggles.

Teachers can take students’ questions written as annotations and type them into a document to give to the whole class, so everyone can see what questions the rest of the class had. Ms. Tovani writes students’ names next to their questions, but that might make students not want to write their questions for fear of asking a stupid or obvious question.

If a student is not annotating, ask the student what they’re thinking. As they tell you, write it down for them. Then show the student what you did and help them take over the writing. If a student says he/she’s not thinking anything, model the process by reading aloud and annotating. Have the student read and say what he/she is thinking and then help him/her write it down.