Buzzword: Close Reading

With the Common Core standards, we hear a lot about close reading and annotation. Many of the workshops and Professional Development series I have attended in the past two years focus greatly on strategies to get students to read closely and annotate text. Looking at the CAASPP performance tasks, students need to have the ability to quickly read critically, synthesize information and then write a coherent expository and or argumentative composition. This post will focus on ways I use technology to annotate text, but I will say I am still a proponent of also ensuring students annotate what we call the “old school” way with highlighters and marginalia on paper. It is crucial for teachers to decide learning objectives and decide when best to use the “old school” approach and or a technology tool like the ones listed below.

1. Diigo

My DLC introduced me to the Diigo Google Chrome extension last year and I LOVE it. Part of my school’s curriculum includes at least three grade level performance tasks in which students read multiple sources and write an argumentative and or expository essay. Often times, there are online sources included in the text set. I put these sources on my Haiku page and have students use Diigo to annotate. They submit their annotated links via a Google form. The links include their highlights (which can be color coded) and their digital post it notes. While writing their essays, my students open their Diigo libraries to reference their annotations.

2. Google Document

While reading a novel in class, I will take a passage that I want students to closely read and paste it into a Google Document with room for marginalia. Sometimes I will pose questions to the right and or give directions for highlighting certain aspects of the text. I like that my Transitional students have the ability to use the “Research” tool for definitions and or images when trying to dissect the text. This option would not be possible on paper.

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3. Google Spreadsheets: Template Tab

I am a BIG fan of Alice Keeler, and I tried this strategy this semester. My students read a couple chapters in To Kill a Mockingbird, and then posted to the Google spreadsheet. Each student ends up with a tab to complete. My favorite part was that at home students developed discussion questions. In class, I had students access another student’s sheet and answer their peer’s discussion question.

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I am brainstorming an idea for next semester and may use a Google Document. At my UCI Writing Project 2 meeting this past month, a teacher presented a close reading strategy with a poem in which students begin to annotate a poem/short passage and then pass their paper to their right in their cooperative learning groups. This process continues until the student gets his/her original paper back.

I am thinking I can group share a Google Document that has a passage from Animal Farm. The passage will be repeated 6 times on the document and the passages will be labelled  a,b,c,d,e,f. Depending on the students’ letters, they will begin annotating the corresponding passage. When the timer goes off, students will move to annotating the passage labelled with the next letter. For example, if I am “A” during round two, I will then annotate passage “B”; this process would continue 6 rounds. Students can then have discussions about how their peers’ annotations helped them look closely at deeper meanings in the text. Just a thought! If you have suggestions to improve this, let me know!!!


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