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Annotation Walk Reading activity

January 19, 2021

An Annotation Walk is a simple reading activity that will help learners process and connect with a text and provide them with an opportunity to move around the room and maintain a safe distance between classmates. Meghan Loveless, who is a teacher in Colorado, designed this activity to get more mileage out of Annotation activity (click here!) in Somos 2 Unit 1 with the story of the Lion and the Zebra.

Read on to learn more about this simple activity and download resources to help you implement it during Virtual instruction!

Annotation Walk Reading Activity

Guest post by Meghan Loveless

There are times when my students see right through all of my tricks to get them to read a text again. In my dream lesson sequence, my students would read a comprehensible text, then read and interact with it again–possibly several times–until they understand it and create connections with it. Maybe they even try out a little writing! And, I want watch this magic of comprehension and connection happen right before my eyes without a ton of work on my end.

One Monday morning, I looked at my plan book and saw that all I had written was, “La cebra y el león and annotation”. In other words: have students read a one-page story and make a few marks on it. I mean, I love annotation–it helps students make connections and exercise higher order thinking, and it gives them a reason to re-read the text–but what was I even thinking when I wrote that in my plan book?! How was I planning for that to fill an entire class period? Was that seriously it? I needed to do more, but time was not on my side.

By the seat of my pants I somehow spun that single line in my lesson plan book into an activity sequence that filled the entire class period: an activity that I am now calling an Annotation Walk. An Annotation Walk brings together a mix of many strategies that I have seen Comprehension-based teachers use. By working through this sequence, I ended up "tricking" my students into listening, reading, and "writing" (copying a text - which is Novice Low-level writing on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines). My students ended up reading the text FOUR TIMES without losing interest through the personalized conversation and connections that resulted from our discussion.

La cebra y el león

This simple story is told in the past tense and is the featured story in the Level 2 Unit 1 Somos and Nous sommes curricula, both traditional and Flex versions.

Preparing for an Annotation Walk

Well, I already gave away my little secret: there was no prep work for me before class started! I had already read the text, and I had a list of the annotations that I was going to ask students to make on their copies.

I happened to have these materials I needed on hand:

  • large post-it notes or butcher paper, 9 total
  • different color markers; 1 for each student
  • copies of a text that students can mark up (if you are reading novels, you can't make copies as per copyright law - instead, have the students use sticky notes and attach them to the pages of the novel)

Lead-in to the Annotation Walk

I began class by reading aloud the story La cebra y el león to my students using a cringeworthy amount of “voice acting”. Maaaaaaybe they rolled their eyes and maaaaaybe I loved that because it let me know that they were listening.

After I read the text to them, I projected the Annotation guide from The Comprehensible Classroom website. Then, I explained to them that they were going to read the text on their own and annotate, or mark up, the text with the symbols that they saw in the graphic.

I set them to work independently, and while they were annotating I wrote each annotation on a large piece of post-it paper. Then, keeping in mind the need for safe physical distancing, I hung up the big post-it notes around the room. I also handed out a different colored (scented) marker–they go bonkers over these things!!

Time to Annotation Walk!

Once most students had finished, I explained that they were going to transfer their annotations onto the big post-its so that we could compare our responses to the text.

Step 1: Copy annotated text onto posters

All students stood up and moved around the room (again, maintaining physical distancing) to add each of their annotations to the corresponding post-it note. On their own copy of the text, they had highlighted different words, phrases, and sentences when they marked it with a symbol. Now, they copied over those words, phrases, and sentences onto the big paper that was already marked with the symbol.

As students were writing, I walked around and asked a few questions in the TL. Seeing what they were writing and getting a glimpse into their thinking helped me to formulate the personalized questions that I would ask in the next portion of the Annotation Walk.

Virtual Annotation Walk

For implementation virtually: you could create a Google Slides presentation or Jamboard file. Place one annotation symbol on each slide, and have each student open the same collaborative file and add their annotations to the slides. Each student can use a different color or mark their contributions with a unique number or their name, or you could leave it anonymous.

Step 2: Look for connections!

Next, I took each post-it note to the front of the room and read aloud everything that was written on the poster. While I read each segment of copied text from the poster, students had to do two things:

  1. Locate that part of the story on their own paper and underline or highlight it.
  2. Answer my questions.

I asked simple comprehension and processing questions, such as, “¿El león quería ver una cebra o la cebra quería ver el león?”.

I asked personalized and customized (credit: Dr. Terry Waltz) questions about each line of copied text, such as, “¿Qué te interesa más, : _ o _? (What interests you more, __ or __?)”, “¿Por qué quieres saber más sobre __? (Why do you want to know more about __?)”, “Ohhhhh (fake your surprise), ¡miren! A una persona le sorpendió que la cebra vio un león, y otra persona comentó que la frase «la cebra vio un león» era la idea principal. (Look! One person was surprised when the zebra saw a lion, and another person commented that the phrase "the zebra saw a lion" was the main idea). My goal was to link each connection to more connections. For example, someone wrote a sentence about the lion and made a reference to The Lion King. I asked questions about who in the class liked that movie and how many times they had seen it.

Step 3: Formative assessment

To wrap up this lesson, I gave students a simple formative assessment. They had to respond to the short processing questions that came with the story (in the Somos 2 Unit 1 Flex plans). Students handed their papers to me on the way out the door, along with their markers that needed to be sanitized.

Try an Annotation Walk

In total, students heard the story once, read the story (and parts of the story) 3 times, wrote parts of the story, listened to the story again, and then again they maybe had to reread parts of the story to answer the comprehension questions. I am super happy with how this accidental no-prep lesson turned out!

About the Author

Meghan Loveless is a Spanish Teacher in Eastern Colorado. She has been teaching for 10 years, adores teenagers and values making things comprehensible for her students. She also works as a Digitizer for the Comprehensible Classroom and Fluency Matters. In her free time you might catch her rollerblading with her kids or catching up with friends. 

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