I am still working out the kinks of the Hypothes.is website, so i had trouble connecting my reading to my annotations, (I had made a hard copy in a lined notebook to feel like I had stepped back in time). I think there is a very big difference between free reading and reading for a purpose. In my class I do a LOT of “public reading”, I tell my students that in this class, they are going to watch me having conversations with myself and they will watch me seemingly slip into insanity, but I like to model active reading as much as possible.
I try to encourage the kids to annotate like they are having a conversation with the text. Is it interesting? Write down why. Do you disagree? Write down why. I believe, and I try to emphasize to the students, that annotation is a deeply personal activity, my annotations may look different from yours because we think differently. The primary goal is to find the important stuff and make it more accessible later.
I think that students absolutely have a performative nature when it comes to annotation. I had some students last year who knew that annotation was underlining and starring. They did that to the point where there were more asterisks on the page than stars in the sky. Despite all this, the annotations did not mean anything to the students. I think that annotation, done for a purpose, should not be a graded assignment in schools. We should encourage students to practice it and improve, but if we grade students on how they annotate, or how many marks they make while reading, we discourage active engagement with the text and promote the idea that annotation is like a checklist.
When it comes to finding meaning in annotation and using it meaningfully. I also tell my students when we annotate, “Highlighting is like saying the word “love.” The more you throw it around ‘willy-nilly,’ the less it means.” Do you really “love” that pencil? If everything is highlighted, then nothing is highlighted. In my class we always start by identifying the question that needs answering then review what kinds of text features and information will help us. Before we begin we all have a roadmap on where to look and what kinds of information should be relevant. I try to encourage my students to share out what they underlined/highlighted/jotted down and discuss why. They see the value in the annotation, they enjoy sharing when i ask them about it, and they like to see what other students find important in a text.