The Usefulness of Annotating In and Outside of the Classroom

Annotating is the process of taking notes as you read. The process encourages close reading which leads to better overall comprehension. Over the last nine years of teaching elementary reading in grades three through five, I have seen how teaching a student how to annotate encourages them to really explore the texts that they encounter.

Annotating gives them something to do – a task to complete and this alone lessens the chances of them simply word calling, drifting into daydreams, and not remembering a word of what they read. I sincerely believe in the power of annotating and its usefulness every day.

Here’s Why – Annotating: 

Helps With & Improves Processing

Per The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy in Grades 4 to 6 in Ontario, p. 61 “Reading is an interactive, problem-solving process of making meaning from texts.” There are five stages involved in the reading process and as scholars go through each they will and should use a variety of reading skills to increase comprehension. The more that students interact with a variety of level-appropriate genres, the better they will get at processing.

Causes Interaction with New Vocabulary

Acquiring new vocabulary is a crucial part of living a literate life. As students read new texts they have the opportunity of being exposed to new vocabulary words. They also get a chance to see the words and phrases that they know and have heard in action.

In addition to this, as students read, they will inevitably come across words that they do not know. When this happens, a learning opportunity presents itself independent of the teacher’s guidance if students have been taught how to annotate properly. Scholars should know to underline, circle, or highlight these words. Attempt to use context clues or crack open a dictionary to find the appropriate definition based on the context it is being used in.  

Encourages The Use of Graphics to Assist with Understanding

Authors and illustrates often use text and graphic features to draw a reader’s attention to additional information that may not be present in the text or the crucial points that they want to reinforce from the text. Scholars should make note of the text and graphic features used in the text, their purpose, and new information learned from them. ( graphic features can be, photos, diagrams, charts,etc.)

Writing while Reading Increases Recall

Writing by hand can improve memory. It also helps those students that hate rereading. Leaving notes in the margins, paraphrasing, identifying the main ideas of paragraphs, or new information learned, gives them the ability to simply reread the snapshot that they wrote down, versus rereading the entire paragraph. ( still, teach that a good reader rereads)

Scholars interact with the text and use a variety of reading skills 

I don’t know about other teachers, but I love to see my hard work in action. By fifth grade, students should be transitioning out of using reading skills in isolation and using a variety as they read and analyze a passage. At this stage, most have an aha moment and realize the why behind learning how to identify figurative language or story elements or how to infer ( insert all other reading skills here). 

Life Application

Learning to annotate in an academic setting also has benefits outside of school or work. For me specifically, it is been very beneficial during my daily bible readings. Before, I’d read a book or a few chapters of a book and the next day struggle to remember the principles, promises, commands, or what I’d learned while I read. Now, as I read, I underline new words that I do not know or understand, write questions in the margins, highlight or make note of commands or the promises of God, and journal to refer back to later.

What I have found is that I recall much more these days and as a result, am better able to apply scripture to my day to day life. 

An annotation is a powerful tool. 

Not sure how to or where to start when teaching you kiddos how to annotate, leave me a question or comment down below! 

Happy Sunday,

Christian Teacher , T