Reading and Annotation Strategy

13 Oct

Gearing up for the UbD conference in Paris  next weekend and putting the finishing touches on my presentations. Here’s a teaser from my session Models by Design: Transfer and Meaning-Making through Models:


When I first teach annotation skills and require students to take notes as they read, I often hear them complain: “But I don’t know what to write!”

In response to that, I came up with this strategy, which I call “SCRAPI-Q.” It’s a way to help them remember what they can write down while reading. At the very least, I urge them, they can always accomplish “S” and “R” and work their way up from there. I encourage them to begin by taking at least one note per page read, either writing right in the book if they own it or on Post-its if they don’t. As they get better, they can increase the amount of notes they take and the kind/depth of notes.


Summary – Student summarizes what she’s read in a sentence or two

Connection – Student makes a connection to another part in the text, another text, class discussion, an Essential Question, or his own life.

Reaction – Reaction of student to text (honesty welcome – “I hate Holden – all he does is complain” is a valid reaction note for The Catcher in the Rye.)

Prediction – Predictions based on context and clues (key to explain that it must be based on something – helps students look for signs by the author, such as foreshadowing. Random guesses about the text are less helpful annotations.)

*Index card – Theme card for each book/novel (see below for more)

**Questions – Questions in growing level of complexity that the student forms while reading (levels 1 – 4 – see below for more detail)

*Index card – keep an index card inside your current book. Put you name and the book title at the top (vertical view). On the left-hand side, write down numbered themes and motifs that you notice as you read, for example “Nature imagery,” “Christ symbolism,”  “Water/cleaning” or “Unreliable narrator.” Underline the themes and leave space between them to write down the page numbers where each example appears. The card then becomes an easy, quick reference for quotes or examples with page numbers right there.

**Level questions:

  1. Level 1: Surface/Plot-based – clear, definitive answer

e.g. Why aren’t Duncan’s sons automatically the heirs when he is killed?

  1. Level 2: Deeper/analysis of plot and characters – debatable answer

e.g. Is Lady Macbeth more powerful than her husband?

  1. 3.     Level 3: “Big”/inspired by text and its themes but do not mention it – debatable and philosophical

e.g. Can women be powerful without acting like men?

  1. Level 4: Author style questions/steps back from text and its themes and focuses on craft of the writer

e.g. Is Shakespeare too harsh in his portrayal of women in Macbeth? Is it a misogynistic play?


I’ve found that most students, especially younger high school students, really benefit from a specific strategy for note-taking. And forming thoughtful, complex questions is a way for them to think deeply and meta-cognitively (“Can you move beyond plot questions?” “Can you try a few L4 questions, thinking less about story and more about how the author accomplishes her job of making you feel something?”)

Level questions are also excellent SPIDER Web Discussion tools; bringing them to class each day after a reading is often the easiest way to get the conversation rolling, even for the shiest students.

This is just one way to model reading strategies for your students so they have a clearer understand of what their job as they read. There are lots of other good strategies out there — SCRAPI-Q is just the one that has worked for me. What about you? Please leave a comment with any successful strategies you’ve found for helping students become better readers and annotators.


One Response to “Reading and Annotation Strategy”

  1. Huda November 10, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Great strategy! I’ll try it out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: