Annotating Literature Lesson Plan
Teaching annotations improves the quality of reading in your classroom. Teaching kids how to annotate is easy.
A Grave Problem
I love Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I was sure my students would do great on the test…until I graded them. Instead of reading the novel, they watched the movie. “How could I be so dumb?” I shouted. “Of course they watched the movie!” I punched the wall, broke my wrist, and passed out due to the pain.
I awoke and spotted a giant creature made of dead body parts standing near my desk. He snarled, “Teach students how to write annotations with teaching annotation lesson plans. Teaching annotations will force them to read because they’ll have to take notes inside the book. If only Dr. Frankenstein knew how to write an annotation, I could murder him, steal his notes, and make me a mate.”
The creature left some great teaching annotation lesson plans on my desk. I share the best one with you.
ELA Common Core Standards Covered
It’s easy to focus on pretty much all the ELA common core standards for reading and writing when teaching annotations.
- RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
- RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
- RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
- RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
- RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
- W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Annotating requires students to think critically about a text. Teaching how to write an annotation is different than teaching how to take notes. Annotation involves writing in the book, engaging the author in conversation, questioning, and clarifying main points. The following supplies make the exercise run much more smoothly:
- Post-it Notes: If the book belongs to a school, library, or someone else, use Post-it notes.
- Highlighter: Yellow works best. Underlining, circling, and stars become laborious and sloppy. Yellow highlighters emphasize without distracting.
- Pencil: Write notes in the margins. Pencil is easy to erase. If you write something really stupid in pen, it will be there for years, reminding you just how stupid you used to be.
- A Book: This is obvious, but a teacher in Michigan wrote me a nasty letter because I didn’t include book in my original lesson plan. I think she was bitter because Ohio State drubs Michigan every year in football (O-H).
Strategies and Procedures for Teaching Annotating
Teach students to annotate any text from which they may need to produce evidence for an essay, debate, or examination. The following instructions will help students annotate:
- As you read highlight key information.
- As you read take marginal notes. These notes can include stars, check marks, phrases, questions, question marks, words, etc.
- Keep a list of key information with page numbers on the front cover of the book (Students will need guidance on what constitutes key information, which depends on genre, purpose, and reading level.).
- Write a brief summary at the end of each chapter or section.
- Write an alternative title for each chapter or section.
- List vocabulary words on the back cover.
Assessing annotations, if done improperly, bogs down even the most efficient teacher. I recommend spot checking certain pages and assessing just those pages. The grade could be based on quantity and quality of information, chapter summaries, or listing of key information. The ultimate assessment tool is assigning a literary analysis or poetry analysis.
Lessons on Paragraph Writing
Here are some more lesson plans and lesson ideas for writing paragraphs.