Annotating Expository Writing

Annotating Expository Writing

Close reading.  Deep comprehension.  Strategic reading.  Skimming. Scanning.  We all know it’s important – that kids will be tested on it in ever more rigorous ways.  But it’s not all about testing.  It’s about raising awareness about genre, organization, and purpose.  Just like a kid who learned everything there is to know about auto-mechanics by taking apart and reassembling the engine of an old jalopy, one of the best ways to learn about writing is by deconstructing text.  That’s what close, strategic reading, skimming and scanning is all about – deconstructing text.  Not only does the process improve comprehension and writing skills, but it also teaches kids how to think critically.  How to learn more efficiently across the content areas, gleaning as much from the text as they can.

It’s really helpful to approach this skill or set of skills discretely, through the use of some texts designed specifically for this purpose.  In fact, you can download a lesson plan, annotated teacher and student copies of one of these types of lessons to get your feet wet. (Download at end of this blog post). This is a great way to start, but it’s just that – a start.  As in all valuable learning situations, the basic skills then have to be applied in “real world” contexts.  You might want to apply the lesson procedures to magazine articles about science and/or social studies nonfiction texts, or to textbooks.

Here are some simple tips you can use for the applying these skills in the content areas:

1.)  Begin with magazine articles or text book chapters that are straightforward and clearly organized.

2.)  Be sure to read the article or chapter section aloud first, to enable students to get an


3.)  Distribute plenty of small sticky notes and have students use them to label:

• the title/topic

  introduction paragraph and lead

  main idea “blurbs” beside each paragraph

  conclusion paragraph and restatement of each main idea

4.)  Have students perform the “mantra” for each supporting detail in a paragraph by asking themselves:  “Does this detail belong with this main idea?  Does this belong?”

5.)  Pay special attention to each heading, italicized and bold-faced word, any charts,

diagrams, maps, graphs, or photographs.

6.)  Magazine articles are terrific sources for these activities.  “Muse,” a Smithsonian publication, is a student magazine with high-quality articles perfect for this purpose. Information on Muse

7.)  Point out how these activities improve study skills by helping students organize and categorize information logically.

Click below to download the lesson.


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