In my previous post “Common Core: What is a ‘complex text’ anyway?” I wrote about the three aspects of a text that the Common Core measures to determine its “complexity,” which include: 1) quantitative, 2) qualitative, 3) reader and task.
Hopefully, that post helped to clarify how we as educators can evaluate the complexity of a text we are using with our students. This blog will focus on ways we can support students in reading, understanding and analyzing those texts. The individual standards for each grade level vary and the standards themselves act like a staircase. Although the strategies I discuss are used at the high school level, I hope they will serve to spark ideas for teachers in elementary and middle school.
Each year, I have students enter my room who claim to hate reading. They say it is a waste of time because they never remember what they read. At first this surprised me. After ten years in the classroom, I understand why they don’t enjoy or remember what they read. Most students are not really thinking about what they are reading. Few students have been asked to slow down and process a text.
Annotations are not a new strategy, but few, if any, of my incoming 9th grade students have ever been taught how to annotate. In college, annotations were the only reason I survived as an English major!
To be effective, students need concrete strategies to ensure that annotations do not add exponentially to their work load. Providing students with tips for how to highlight and annotate can make a big difference in the success of this practice.
- Important passages
- Names of people
- Unfamiliar vocabulary
- Quotable lines
- Key research, statistics & facts
- Themes & main ideas
- ? = question or unsure of meaning
- * = important
- [ ] = quotable
- # = info, statistic or research
- ___= new vocabulary
Making notes in the margin:
- Write definitions
- Ask questions
- Translate ideas into your own words
- Make connections…other books, classes, life experiences
- Capture emotional reactions
- Comment on ideas
- Predict what will happen
As more teachers begin to supplement and replace traditional texts with digital texts, it is important that students learn how to organize, process and share online resources as well.
Diigo is a fabulous tool for highlighting, annotating, bookmarking and sharing digital texts.
Collaborative Annotations Using Google Docs
Teachers can create a Google doc with two columns – one for text and the other for annotations. This doc can be copied and shared with a small group of students who can read, annotate, and discuss the text using the instant message feature.
The beauty of using Google is that it can be done asynchronously (occurring at different times) for homework if you are working with older students or students with access at home. It can be done synchronously (at the same time) with students who are younger, need practice, or do not have reliable access to internet outside of the classroom.
Students can ask each other questions, use the “define” tool to look up words they don’t know or the “research” tool to find out more about a concept. Google docs makes it easy to connect students with each other and with a variety of tools to enhance their understanding of a complex text.
Pair a Piece of Reading with a Google Form
I love collecting information using Google forms. All of the information is stored neatly in a spreadsheet I can access any time and/or share with others. Instead of making a stack of handouts with questions, why not have students submit responses via a Google form? This way you can grab examples of strong responses to share with the class so everyone can benefit.
I also love using anonymous responses to get students critiquing each other’s writing to improve their analysis, grammar, citations, etc.
If you use paper graphic organizers with students and want to take them online to incorporate media and facilitate collaboration, I will be focusing on that in my next blog post about the Common Core Reading Standards.