Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Annotation A to Z

Christopher's N for notes.
A.P. Language and Composition is like landing on Mars. Argument, rhetoric, fallacy, device, craft, analysis, so many of the concepts I will teach seem foreign and red rock-ish to students when they begin the year. I like to start the year on familiar ground: students' experiences as readers and writers. All of the texts we start with point us in that direction.

Students read On Writing by Stephen King for summer reading as well as a memoir. In class we're connecting King's ideas to other writers who write their reading or writing lives. Eventually we'll write our own memoir pieces about ourselves as readers or writers. We're still in the thick of it: only a few texts into the set, a pages into the book or a few bars into what will become the score of our year.

We begin with Mortimer Adler's essay "How to Mark a Book."  I ask students to read and annotate the text. I don't give them annotation directions; I want to see what they bring to the course. We talk about how we annotate. I give them a tour of a text I've annotated and show them how marks and codes spill over into notes in my journal. Then we create a class response to the article.

Esteban's clever approach to Z (for zeal). 
This time,  I had students create an Annotation: A to Z "book."   Each student took a letter. While I can see a need for fine tuning criteria, I was pleased at the conversations I heard around the room and the results students produced (in just 12-15 minutes of class time). A is for annotating, agreeing, arguments, acquainting yourself... you get the idea.

I plastered the pages to a pillar in my classroom. I am sure we will visit the "pillar of annotation" often this year; it's going to be a physical reminder of the hard work we do as readers. I photographed the pages students created and put together a quick slide show to use in class as review and play while students reflected on their annotation styles. I don't care for how the video came out (the movement, the cropped images, etc.). I did it quickly because I couldn't download Photo Story to my refurbished computer at school and the show would be longer than the 30 seconds Animoto allows (I haven't renewed my educator pact with them yet). That aside, the video is not a polished product, but it served it's purpose as a reminder and review.

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