Annotation Strategies That Work!

What is an Annotation?

Annotating while reading text is a powerful way for students to become more active and engaged readers, but many don’t know where to begin. They don’t understand how and what to annotate, or realize how important it is. For example, highlighting is one of the most popular ways to annotate, yet so many students fall prey to “yellow page syndrome.” Kids end up highlighting everything because they aren’t sure what is most important. Alternatively, other children are afraid to annotate at all because they fear they won’t do it “right.” And others still just see it is an annoying extra step, rather than a valuable reading tool. Instead, students should understand that effective annotations can turn a passive reader into an active reader. They should also remember that there isn’t one way to annotate correctly. Teach kids the following annotation strategies to deepen their understanding of a text:

1. Summarize key concepts

In order to better understand important points from a text, students should practice noting those points in their own words. Paraphrasing information forces students to engage more deeply with the text, thereby making more meaning of it. Annotations don’t always need to be on the page of text. They can use a separate piece of paper, or better yet, post-it notes.

2. Highlight/underline strategically

While highlighting is the quickest and most convenient form of annotation, it is also the least engaging. When students don’t know what it is they are looking for, they become susceptible to “yellow page syndrome.” It can help for readers to first think of one or a few different questions or ideas they want to focus on as they read. Then, they can read and highlight in different colors according to each guiding question or area of focus.

3. Create an outline while reading

Diagraming the key characters, events, or ideas in a text can help a reader get a better sense of the big picture. When making an outline, students should first look at how the text is organized, and create an outline with similar structure; if the text uses headings and subheadings, their outline should too. In order to know what notes to include in the outline, kids should read each section to identify important details. Then, they should note these using keywords and phrases.

4. Ask questions and make connections

Active reading means engaging more deeply with a text. A great strategy for doing this is asking questions and making connections while reading. Questions can be about the content of the text itself, the author’s point of view, or points of interest for additional research. Similarly, students can make connections to other texts they’ve read, experiences they’ve had, or related topics they’ve learned about. This more involved engagement is generally not a good fit for margins. Instead, students should take notes on post-its or a separate piece of paper.

Mastering Annotations

The most effective way to annotate is in stages. For some this means reading through a text a first time to get an overall sense of the content, then reviewing the reading again to focus on annotation. Others prefer to simply read and annotate section-by-section. No matter what, it is important to remember that annotating isn’t an extra step but an essential one. This sort of active reading is what helps our brains make meaning of text. While annotating while reading may take a bit longer in the short-term, it’s a worthwhile investment in the long-term!

A seasoned tutor or learning specialist can help their students to master the process of annotating and teach them key strategies to annotating a text in a way that will benefit their skills and comprehension as a reader. Braintrust matches students with top educators and tutors across the nation. If you’re looking for a tutor that specializes in your child’s individual needs or learning differences, find out how it works and get matched with someone today!

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