We are racing toward the end of the year, and my juniors have been working hard between their prep work for our first American lit book club meeting tomorrow (for A day classes) and Friday (for B day classes) and our state End of Course testing. About 10 days ago, we revisited two sets of annotation strategies we have used all year:
- Annotation strategies from Cris Tovani (whose book So What Do They Really Know?: Assessment That Informs Teaching and Learning you should read, especially the chapter on annotations as assessment and that inspired me on this journey back in 2013-14); this version is my adaptation with sentence starters I created to support my students.
- Smokey Daniels’ version that is based on text codes.
I also introduced fiction signposts from Bob Probst and Kylene Beers; I am using this beautiful interpretation/version crafted by the amazing Julie Swinehart. We came up with shortcut codes of CC, Aha!, TQ, WW, AA, and MM. I also modeled sample annotations for students in all classes.
For our American Lit book club project (blog post way overdue and coming soon!), my juniors participated in a book tasting of five texts: Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Raisin in the Sun, and Our Town. I’ll write more about the book selection process, but in a nutshell, nearly everyone got his/her first choice, and I developed reading schedules for each text around our testing calendar to balance testing days with in-class time for reading and prep work for the first book club meetings.
One of the requirements for the first round of reading is for students to craft at least 10 high quality annotations; students can do more for bonus points, but 10 is the minimum for this first reading round. Students must do the following with their annotations:
- Include a shortcut code or text symbol
- Write at least one complete sentence
- Use any combination of the three strategy sets (and students could also craft their own additional codes if needed).
- Craft meaningful annotations to help them be reflective and active readers.
I provided a multitude of Post-It notes in a diverse range of colors, sizes, and styles to meet everyone’s needs (yes, I bought these with my own money, but monitor Amazon for great sales on Post-It notes!). With our mini-lesson and supplies at hand, students jumped right into their work:
This week I have been conferencing with students 1:1 about their annotation work. The procedure is very simple: I have a chair next to my desk, students come over for a conference when ready (and sign up on the board if we get busy with a waiting list), we sit side by side, and we spend 7-10 minutes chatting about their annotations. These conferences are reveal much about students’ thinking and questions about the text, and the annotations provide us some quick talking points for me to get an idea about the student and how he/she is progressing with engagement and understanding of the book. The concept sounds so simple, but I have learned so much about my juniors as readers, thinkers, and individuals this week in a short time; these conferences, though brief, are incredibly insightful much like a writing conference.
Though the conferences do take up time, I highly encourage you to try them with your students! Here is a sampler of work from all levels of 11th English–I have been impressed by the intellectual and emotional investment my students have put into their work. The effort and quality of work is even more impressive considering the high stakes testing that is happening on any given day right now! I know this work is helping them with their book club meeting prep graphic organizer (I’ll share in my next blog post) and will be the fuel for rich book club discussions tomorrow and Friday.