Annotating a Text Sample and Directions

What is it?  |  What does it look like?  |  How could I use, adapt or differentiate it?   |  Questions or Comments
Greece Central School District. Student Learning is the Goal

Use this Strategy:

  • Before Reading
  • During Reading
  • After Reading

Targeted Reading Skills:

  • Formulate questions in response to text
  • Analyze and interpret elements of poetry or prose
  • Draw conclusions and make inferences based on explicit (literal) and implicit (figurative) meaning

What is it?Go To Top of Page

Reading and constructing meaning from a text is a complex and active process; one way to help students slow down and develop their critical analysis skills is to teach them to annotate the text as they read.  What students annotate can be limited by a list provided by the teacher or it can be left up to the student’s discretion.  Suggestions for annotating text can include labeling and interpreting literary devices (metaphor, simile, imagery, personification, symbol, alliteration, metonymy, synecdoche, etc.); labeling and explaining the writer’s rhetorical devices and elements of style (tone, diction, syntax, narrative pace, use of figurative language, etc.); or labeling the main ideas, supportive details and/or evidence that leads the reader to a conclusion about the text.  Of course, annotations can also include questions that the reader poses and connections to other texts that reader makes while reading.

What does it look like?Go To Top of Page

The way a reader chooses to interact with a text will vary from reader to reader, but here is an example of a poem that has been annotated:

The Journey By Mary Oliver. One Day, you finally knew what you had to do and began through the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice. Though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles, mend my life each voice cried. But you didn't stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own that you kept company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world determined to do the only thing you could do, determined to save the only life you could save. Speaker and audience. The speaker in the poem uses the second person point of view, you to address the reader directly. The constant repitition makes it feel as if it's a private talk between the speaker and each individual reader. Tone. I would characterize the tone as strident, confident, determined, almost conspiritorial, the speaker wants me to listen carefully to the message before I set out on my own journey. Which will be different than hers, of course. Occasion. The speaker may have been prompted by an actual walk down two roads during a storm and used that experience to create a metaphor for a difficult journey, one with distractions and obstacles. Purpose. The speaker seems to be saying that the hardest journey of all may be to listen to your own inner voice, especially when there is a storm of other voices advising you otherwise. Subject. It's clear the poet feels that I need to pay attentionto my own journey, my own vision of who and what I am and what my journey is all about as I stride deeper and deeper into the world. Only when I listen to my own voice and chart my own course will the stars burn through and guide me safely inside to who I am.

How could I use, adapt or differentiate it? Go To Top of Page

  • Have students complete this activity individually or with a partner as a way to prepare for a discussion and/or a writing prompt.
  • To differentiate, teachers can annotate some of the more difficult parts of a text to aid the students, begin the annotation with the entire class to get them started, or form heterogeneous or homogeneous groups based on skill levels and the teacher’s discretion for the best way to proceed.
  • Refer to the other annotation activities depending on the objective of the lesson.
  • Acronyms can provide students with helpful reminders about different things to consider when annotating text.