Not familiar with annotation? Learn about this helpful study strategy with these tips from Evanston, IL and online tutor Rachel M.:
Have you ever read a chapter of a textbook or passage in an essay only to forget everything you just read? Maybe you didn’t fully absorb it the first time around, or perhaps you weren’t committed to understanding it in the first place. If that’s the case for you, learning how to annotate a text can make a huge difference in your reading comprehension levels.
But what is annotating text exactly? Text annotation refers to the practice of marking up your pages with notes to help you better understand and grasp what you just read. Annotating text is a great reading strategy, especially when you want to go back and recall what you previously read. Instead of reading the entire text through again, you can refer to your annotations, which (when done correctly) should provide a helpful summary of the text.
Now, why is annotation important? Annotation is an essential tool to use while reading for many multifaceted reasons. That’s because you do not always retain information when you read without annotating, absorbing words passively instead of analyzing the text. Reading anything for academic purposes (such as a book, newspaper article, or essay) is enhanced by taking notes while you read.
The benefits of learning about annotating text are apparent:
- Better understand what you are reading. Reading without questioning is like hearing without listening. Annotation is an active process that helps the reader think critically about ideas and concepts that will be used later. This is the difference between just reading, and reading for comprehension.
- Remember important key concepts and plot points. In addition to helping you understand what it is you are reading, writing down vital information will reinforce it and help you recall it later. Annotating text is important for daily homework review, essay writing, and studying for the test.
- Read for knowledge, not for credit. Annotating while you read will save you time by not having to go back later to read an entire section. When you already have notes in the margins and key points highlighted, your eye is naturally drawn to the page and excerpts that you will need to review later. Instead of reading something three or four times, annotating could save you that time and effort.
Knowing what and how to annotate will be somewhat subjective for each person, as different types of people make different types of notes. That said, we’ve provided some common annotation text tools and recommendations that you can experiment with until you find your groove. Try out some of the following annotation tips next time you read a text to see what a difference they can make!
1. Circle new vocabulary words.
Always remember to keep a dictionary next to you while you read so you can look up new words or phrases. Sometimes you can guess the meaning of a word by the context of the sentence or excerpt, but not always. Make sure to look up all new vocabulary terms in the dictionary. Write the meaning of the word in the margin and an explanation if applicable.
2. Underline new characters and place names.
Keeping track of new key characters will help in the long run when you need to review for a test. It helps to circle the first instance of each character’s introduction, plus any example of a passage in which the character asserts his/her personality. Circling the characters’ names in each important scene will reinforce your ability to cite references to use in subsequent essays, as well.
3.Write your own thoughts and opinions in the margins.
Often when you read something for the first time, your thoughts and impressions are different from subsequent readings. You generally tend to pick up on new or different things each time you read something. For this reason, it is beneficial to write down your thoughts or interpretations of a section each time you read and reread it. At the very least, it could be interesting to go back later to see what you were thinking when you read a chapter. At its most useful, this skill will help you develop an important note-taking habit to use for future literary analyses.
4. Summarize main concepts, theories, and points in your own words.
When it comes to the best annotation strategies, learning to summarize aspects of the text in your own words is a great way to retain, recall, and better understand them. For instance, maybe you’ve come across an important term you need to know, but the definition is riddled with scientific jargon. Can you break it down and describe it in layman’s terms that make more sense to you? Explain it in your own way in the margin of your text so that you’ll have a better chance of remembering it later.
You can use this tip when you’re faced with a long passive. Describe what was discussed in a few brief bullet points in the margin, or divide the passage into more bite-sized pieces, explaining what occurred in each section. This will help trigger your memory when you go back to review the text.
5. Create your own annotating system.
There is no right or wrong approach when it comes to the specific things to annotate in a book or passage. The way you annotate your text may look totally different from your classmate’s annotations—and that’s perfectly ok! Perhaps the best annotation tip of all is to find what works for you.
You might decide to use certain colored pens to signify different meanings. Maybe you use a yellow highlighter to mark definitions and a green one for important quotes. Alternatively, you could use different symbols when annotating text. A star might represent an important concept, while a question mark signifies something you don’t understand. The more you practice annotating your text, the easier it will be to find a system that best suits you and your learning style.
If you are a student in eighth grade or a higher grade level, you should know how to annotate. It is important to learn this skill earlier rather than later, because even though many high school teachers require book annotations as homework, the knowledge of annotating text will serve you well long after your school days have ended.
However, if you were never properly taught how to annotate text or just never got the hang of it, don’t fret. When you sign up for private reading lessons with us, you can work one-on-one with a certified tutor who can help you improve your reading skills. Your tutor will provide you with helpful annotated text samples and strategies for boosting your reading comprehension. It’s never too late to focus on advancing your reading skills. Sign up for lessons today and get ready to see your reading comprehension soar!
Rachel M. tutors various subjects in Evanston, IL, as well as online. She has an extensive background teaching and tutoring others, especially in ESL, English, French, and special education. Learn more about Rachel here!
Photo by Kamal Hamid