Annotations

Strategies for Reading Notes and Annotations: Literary Nonfiction and Memoir Book Clubs

We are a full week into our literary nonfiction and memoir book clubs, and I’m happy to report most students completed their first required reading goal for our first book club meeting on January 17.  This past Monday I introduced four options for taking reading notes and strategically annotating their books.  I built on strategies we learned last semester and folded in a few new approaches as well that tie into last week’s mini-lesson on themes, central ideas, and issues—I feel like all of these were doable for my 8th graders, and they loved the element of choice.  I also appreciated some students had some creative interpretations of the strategies and were engaged in their thinking with their notes.

You can see a tutorial video I created for my students who were absent for the mini-lesson or who needed to hear it again; I posted this video in our Canvas course LMS as well as our class blog.

The slideshow below is also available to students in both virtual learning spaces as I add student created work to showcase and highlight as the possibilities for notetaking.

I do provide different kinds of paper and a plethora of Post-It notes for my students to use.  Please enjoy the digital gallery of student work in progress below; overall, I feel like the quality of thinking and notes is much better than what I saw with my previous 8th graders.  However, I feel my instruction on annotating and closer reading has been stronger this academic year as well.

I’m excited to see what options they choose and the notes they create for our January 24 book club meeting!  In my next blog post, I’ll provide an update on our first book club meeting (held January 17) discussions and reflections on the book club meeting as well as their meeting prep work.

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Annotating for Active Reading: Post-It Notes and File Folders

This fall my 8th graders have practiced Notice and Note annotation strategies as well as those from Cris Tovani.  I have not required my 8th graders to annotate their independent reading, but earlier this month, I felt annotating their reading for an in-class reading day would be beneficial for my students.  I also felt this might be a gentle way of starting to scaffold their annotating for TQE discussions that we’ll do in January 2020.   I created mini-versions of notes/handouts I had already given the students and condensed them to “marry” them to a TQE framework, integrating our existing annotation strategies as well as Beers and Probst’s “3 Big Questions.”  Here is the result:

You can make a copy of these handouts I created here:

Because I had lost my voice due to an upper respiratory infection, I had students engage in a quick partner reading of the instructions.  Pairs then summarized the instructions and what they needed to do during their independent reading time.  I then shared a completed model I did over Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes.

Students were asked to complete 6 annotations:  two “thoughts”, two “questions”, and two “epiphanies”.   I provided a basket of Post-It notes in varying colors, sizes, and styles at every table area for students to use.  In addition, I gave every student a file folder with his/her name on it to place their sticky notes.  When students finished annotating at the end of the period, they organized and placed their notes in the folder to turn in to me.  The folder system is something I am trying so that I can grade annotation work with Post-Its but not have to collect a zillion bulky composition books.  When the folders are returned to students, they get a scored rubric of their work and can transfer the Post-It notes to their course binder.

I found this to be an easy way to nudge students to read a little more actively but not overwhelm them with the act of annotating.  We’ll use this system of collecting and sharing annotations when we begin our literary nonfiction and memoir book clubs in January as well as with our independent reading next semester.  I feel like the folders (which I keep once the students remove their work) are a simple but easy to use vehicle for collecting and checking the annotation as a formative assessment.  You can make a copy of the rubric I created by clicking here.

How do you encourage active reading and annotating in a meaningful and manageable way?

Immersing Ourselves in Poems with a POETRY FLOOD

Last Wednesday and Thursday, my students engaged in a “poetry flood”, a gallery walk designed to give students to immerse themselves in 50 different poems.  The activity design was fairly simple:

  1.  I chose close to 50 unique poems of varying styles, poets, topics, and time periods for students to browse and read.
  2.  During the poetry flood, students walked about quietly and read poems.  As they came across ones of interest that they liked or enjoyed or thought would be a good choice for their poetry project, they jotted down the poem title and author.  I do play soft music through the overhead projector/ceiling speakers during the gallery walk; this selection is one of my favs for the 2018-19 school year!
  3. Students could revisit and re-read the poems at any time, including the online voting.
  4. The activity took two class periods; our first day was a bit short since we were on a modified afternoon schedule due to state testing.  We completed the flood on Day 2 and did our online voting so that I could have time to compile the responses and have enough copies of the poems for each student in each class.
  5. Once they completed their reading (roughly 20-25 minutes for most), they went online to a Google Form in our Canvas course and voted for their top three poem choices and explained each choice.  They also voted for whether they wanted to do a FSLL poster or Sketchnoted Poetry Analysis for their project; we reviewed project options and requirements Wednesday and Thursday.  Students turned in the hard copy of their “poetry flood” notetaking/jot sheet form once they finished voting.  You can see a breakdown of project choices below.

5.  Note:  I definitely recommend using Google Forms to collect student votes so you can download responses into a spreadsheet and quickly sort the top choices and give students one of their top three choices while avoiding replication of poems within a class period for project work.  Click here to see a PDF version of my form.  I actually downloaded one master spreadsheet and then did some cut/paste to separate into my four different class sections to make voting easier.

Below are videos and photos to help you see our poetry flood unfolded over two days:

{Note:  please pardon the mess with items covered up to preserve our testing environment in my classroom last week and the week before!}

With the exception of my first period class (I did not get to see them Thursday because of our testing schedule, so they picked up on Friday with completing the poetry flood), my other three classes received their poems on Friday.  I made copies on neon paper, and we spent most of the period annotating the poems.  Each student was required to do five high quality annotations and could use their poetry terms and FSLL question stems (install this font for the download to format correctly) to nudge their thinking.

Once they finished the first round of annotations, students showed me their work and we conferenced for next steps to polish or finalize their annotations.  Most needed a 2nd pass at going beyond some connecting and summarizing of stanzas and a little coaching to help them focus on some literary or poetic elements.   In addition, I encouraged some students to further elaborate on their notes if that was needed.  The majority of students responded really well to the conferences and set about their work in a positive and earnest manner.  I was quite impressed with their efforts, especially with the final product after our annotation conferences.

Those who finished their annotation work a little early used scratch paper to begin planning a mockup and notes for their project.  We’ll actually craft the posters on Thursday and Friday of this week.

Given our limitations of time with the two week state testing session that just ended plus end of the year events, I feel these activities are a meaningful way to give my students a personal and positive experience with poetry at the end of the year.  What kinds of activities do you like to do to immerse students in poetry?  What are your favorite poetry projects, especially when time is short?

Finding a Path into Poetry with Annotations, FSLL Charts, and Poetry Chats

Last week  (April 17) we began our exploration of poetry with an inquiry-oriented warm-up.  I presented students two documents:

  • An annotated copy of “Alone” by Maya Angelou (annotations by me)
  • A FSLL (Feelings, Story, Language, and Lines) that I had completed for “Alone” by Maya Angelou.

Students could work alone or with a partner to record their noticings about the annotation strategies evident on the poem; they also recorded their noticings about the kinds of elements discussed in the FSLL chart.   They also got to talk about any overalap they saw between the two.  Once students had recorded these noticings, we shared out to the whole class.

The next day, we engaged in a class reading of “Every Day” by Naomi Shihab Nye; this poem is part of a collection in her book A Maze Me:  Poems for Girls, a longtime favorite of mine.  Students practiced annotation the poem and working on their FSLL charts for the “Every Day”; students also had the opportunity to share their work with a partner.

My two “accelerated” classes also had the opportunity to complete a sticky note lit analysis jigsaw by finding two metaphors and one symbol in the poem.  Students had the opportunity to identify the literary element, draw a sketchnote to represent what they saw in their minds when they read those lines, and to write a short explanation of the literary element and how it contributed to the overall message or meaning of the poem.

This past week we engaged in poetry chats to generate conversation and share our thinking about the poem.  I did two variations of the poetry chat:  one version was set up like a timed station rotation, and the other was structured more like table talk with a large class share.

With the station rotation version, we did timed stations in which students wrote their responses on butcher paper.  This pretty much took the entire class period and is a great option when you have the luxury of time.  On Day 2, each group was assigned the task of reading over the responses and generating a 3-2-1 reflection to share with the whole class:

Students received a performance assessment grade for their poster presentation and a separate grade for the written poster (content, response to the writing/thinking directions).

A quicker version that is also meaningful is to assign a question prompt to each table group and let them brainstorm their responses on a large sticky note to to then share out to the whole class.  Though they don’t get the benefit of the silent “write around” and seeing the thinking of an entire class like the longer version,  this version still engages student in teamwork and critical though as well as an opportunity to speak to the entire class.  I used the same prompts for both variations of poetry chat, and I also provided supporting notes on any literary elements I felt might be helpful for students.  You will note my question prompts say “silent” because originally I had planned for each class to do the silent write-around part first, but as many of you know, time is at a premium right now, and I was not able to do it with three sections due to time constraints.

We are on the eve of state Milestones testing here, but we’ll continue to read poems and analyze them using the FSLL strategies/question prompts to annotate and think about poems.  Our next steps will be to take our charts to the next level with 11×17 posters, so stay tuned for a new post on that in May!

Introducing Argumentative Writing with Four Corners Debate, Table Talk, Ping/Pong Pros and Cons, and Team Debates

Taking a page from the playbook of Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy, I decided to introduce our new unit on argumentative writing with some informal debate.  On Day 1, we started with this ticket in the door that surveyed students on what they knew about debate.  Students engaged in partner talk (I recommend the “knee to knee, face to face” method)  first about their responses; we then moved to whole group discussion as students shared their responses and thoughts.

Next, students completed the Four Corners debate graphic organizer to prepare what they might want to say on the following statements:

Once students completed their graphic organizer, we started with a couple of rounds of informal debate via Four Corners.

At the end of the day Wednesday, I felt the Four Corners strategy—for whatever reasons—was just falling flat and not working for my students, so I decided to regroup a bit the following day with variations on table talk.

On Thursday, students could choose their groups; the only restrictions were:

  • You must leave your current table group.
  • You may not sit with anyone from your table group.
  • No more than four people per table area.

We began our table talk by sharing what we had to say about each topic and why.  We then moved to a more focused round of discussion and collaboration.  Each group was assigned one of the topics to lead for discussion using the following protocols:

I was pleasantly surprised that this simple approach yielded some lively discussion within table groups and in our large group share.  For several of my classes, this activity generated some of the best work and richest thinking I’ve heard all year.

Next Steps:  Debating with Evidence

For our next round of informal debate, I wanted students to find evidence to back up their stance or claim.  Students were first asked to write how they felt about zoos–are they a good idea, and what makes you say that?  Students composed this response on a lined sticky note.

Next, students were provided two articles about zoos.  On January 23, students received this graphic organizer and began looking for evidence to support each claim.  Students could use mini sticky notes to gather their evidence and/or write directly on the graphic organizer.  I differentiated between my classes by letting two of my sections collaborate and work with a partner; for my accelerated classes, they did their initial thinking and gathering work independently before having a chance to share with a partner on the following day of class and to finalize their work.

Students had half the period on Thursday and half the period on Friday to gather as much research as the could and discuss with a buddy.  For Periods 1, 4, and 5, students lined up on either side of our center table area; I designated one side as the group that would share reasons zoos are beneficial; the other side was designated as the side to share evidence to argue that zoos are not ethical or good for animals.   Students were standing directly across from each other and we did what I called “Ping Pong Pro/Con” debate with a person from one side presenting evidence and then the opposing side would present their evidence.   The primary rule was that you could repeat evidence that anyone had shared, so students sometimes had to drill down into the evidence they had collected.  I was so busy moderating and listening to student responses/taking notes as a formative assessment that I did not get any photos!

This activity was a gentle way of letting students share evidence-based responses and differing views without overwhelming them with rules of formal debate.  In addition, the activity was a fabulous and easy formative assessment because you could quickly hear in the verbal responses if students had correctly pickled relevant evidence for their assigned claim and if they understand the evidence.

For my final class, I decided to do a variation on the activity and have team competitions instead.   Sometimes Friday afternoons with 8th graders require you to be resourceful, and a good old-fashioned competition is an easy to energize tired 8th graders on a Friday afternoon during the last period of the day.  Students compared evidence and prepared what they felt were their five most compelling pieces of evidence for their assigned claim.

Both teams presented well enough that we had to go to sudden death round with teams choosing one final piece of new evidence to make their case!  The team element plus some “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” music amped up the energy!

In my next post, I’ll share how we moved from these first steps to exploring concepts of claims, counterclaims, and rebuttals.