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Annotation Academy- What a way to start the year!

I can’t believe we’ve been back in school for four weeks already. That was fast! I’m very pleased with the way this school year has started. The kids have been great so far, and everything seems to be running smoothly (knock on wood). One thing that has really helped is the way I decided to start off the year. I knew I wanted my kids to end up with strong annotation skills, so I thought I would begin this school year demonstrating and reinforcing all the skills I expect my students to use almost every day. I created an Annotation Academy for this purpose.

Here’s how it works-

I collected excerpts from 9 famous short stories, 2 Shakespeare excerpts,and 2 poems and put them in a packet. Each excerpt has annotation instructions, text-based questions, and space for the students to write two text-based questions of their own. Before I start explaining my lesson cycle, I should say that I’m on an A/B block schedule, so I see my students for 90 minutes every other day.

The first day, I modeled annotating for them on an excerpt from ” The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. I told them to copy everything I did as I did it. Then I modeled how to use the APE strategy to answer the text-based questions and had them copy those answers onto their sheet.

Then they had to work in groups to annotate and answer questions on an excerpt from “Robbie” by Isaac Asimov. They needed to use my modeling as a guide for their own work.

Students Annotating

The second day, I modeled again using an excerpt from “The Crystal Egg” by H. G. Wells. It was exactly the same process as before. Then they worked in groups to annotate and answer questions about an excerpt from “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. After they finished that, they had to do an excerpt from “The Little Mermaid” on their own. This assignment was turned in the next class period.

The third day I did not model but went straight to the group work. They had to annotate and answer all but one question on an excerpt from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The other question directed them to draw a picture of Ichabod Crane based solely on the text and their annotations from the passage. They had to complete this on their own. Here are some examples of the work I received:

The next day, the students had to work in groups on an excerpt from “The Fall of the House of Usher”. They again did all but one question as a group, and that last one was to draw the house based on the text and their annotations. Here are some examples of the drawings of the house:

I told the kids on both of the drawings that I, myself, am not an artist, but I could make sure to draw a red door if that’s what the text said. Or to give a character green eyes if the description included that information. The artistry wasn’t the end game, it was the accuracy. That seemed to help kids who are reluctant artists, and for the most part they did well!

Wrapping it up

The last lesson before the assessment was Shakespeare and poetry. I had the Prince’s decree from Romeo and Juliet, and “Invictus” and “Success”. I told them that this day was all about them and their knowledge, and they were going to complete all the work by themselves. If they wanted me to check if they were answering in correct APE format, I would look at it for them. If they had any other questions, today was the day to ask. The only direct help I gave them was to read the Prince’s decree out loud twice so they could hear the speech with inflection.

The next class was their assessment, an excerpt from Macbeth. They had most of the period to complete it, and all finished in plenty of time. I will be going over their tests with them individually as we start our short story unit so that I can hear their thinking and see their answers at the same time. It will also be a good way to correct any small errors quickly before they get into annotating their short stories. I’m looking forward to it! I hope to continue to build relationships this way as well.

So that’s the Annotation Academy! I hope you will find inspiration as we start out this school year, and I wish you all the best. Here are my Notes on Annotation which can also be found in my ELA Student Handbook.