Active Reading via Annotation

Active Reading

One of the greatest challenges students face is adjusting to college reading expectations.  Unlike high school, students in college are expected to read more “academic” type of materials in less time and usually recall the information as soon as the next class.

The problem is many students will spend hours reading and have no idea what they just read.  Their eyes are moving across the page, but their mind is somewhere else. The end result is wasted time, energy, and frustration . . . and having to read the text again.

Although students are taught how to read at an early age, many are not taught how to actively engage with written text.

Active Reading is applying reading strategies before, during, and after reading a text with the overall objective of increasing comprehension (understanding what was read) and recall (remembering what was read) to save time and effort.

The Secret is in the Pen

One of the ways proficient readers read is with a pen in hand.  They know their purpose is to keep their attention on the material by:

  • predicting what the material will be about
  • questioning the material to further understanding
  • determining what’s important
  • identifying key vocabulary
  • summarizing the material in their own words, and
  • monitoring their comprehension (understanding) during and after engaging with the material

Annotating a Text

Note the following traits of a text while reading to help determine what to annotate:

  • The thesis
  • The main points of to develop the thesis in the order they are placed
    • A select sampling of the most important support used to develop the main points
  • The conclusion
  • Your impressions, concerns, questions, and reactions
  • Key phrases, elements, allusions, and words
  • Unfamiliar words, ideas, people, events, & allusions

Some important things to consider while annotating:

  • Be selective, because annotating too much material will not help you sort out the most important material.
  • Highlight or underline the text to which the annotations speak, as this can help you figure out what to quote, paraphrase, where the questions you might have are located, and to what to react.

Review this video about “Learning How to Annotate” to develop active reading strategies.

Reading Journal

Some students find keeping a written account of what they have read–including, but not exclusive to what is important, confusing, provocative, and problematic–helpful toward comprehension and critical analysis of a text. The two links below offer some insight about how to keep a reading journal, with the second focusing on journaling about academic texts.

Review Oberlin College and Conservatory’s “Keeping a Reading Journal” page.

And Dustin Wax’s “Keep an Academic Reading Journal” to develop reading comprehension strategies.