Annotating was a tool that my teachers required in my high school English classes. The reasoning behind it is to help students identify the important details within a text. Supposedly it teaches students to read in a more engaged fashion in preparation for a test, paper or other assessment that will follow the reading of a novel, short story or poem. However, I feel that annotating is not being used correctly by students or teachers. In my opinion annotating leads students to read solely for the purpose of completing the required criteria set by the teacher. It also leads teachers to make strict rubrics requiring a set number of annotations students must complete. I believe that this use of annotation is defeating the purpose of reading.
Annotating was something that I was required to do beginning in high school. The idea of writing inside of books was something I was unfamiliar with, however, because it was a requirement, I was forced to do it. I remember my teacher telling us that we had to write/underline/star at least 5 things per page of the book we were reading. I, being a diligent student consistently found 5 things I had a question or connection with and highlighted them. However, I discovered that my peers were simply highlighting/underlining 5 sentences and moving on without reading the material. Their Their attitude was, “Its for a grade, why would I waste my time with actually reading the book when our teachers only care if we note 5 things per page?” While this was seriously perplexing to me, I can understand their viewpoint because teachers put too much emphasis on finding the five required elements. However, they didn’t check to ensure that the 5 things highlighted were of substance and meaning to the novel itself.
I also remember watching some of my teachers grading annotations. They would simply count 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on each page without reading whatever was highlighted or written. I know numerous people who would legitimately put a song on their iPod and write down the lyrics of the song they listened to as they flipped the page. The crazy part about this is those students received 100s. How is this beneficial to anyone involved? I feel that annotations should be a choice. I know for some students annotating is helpful in their reading process, and then I also knew the iPod lyric writers…
Personally, I feel that the requirement of annotating caused me to read in a more mechanical way, which is not something I enjoy. I don’t think that there are necessarily 5 important things written on every single page of a novel that need to be identified in order to understand the central themes and messages conveyed in a book. Isn’t that the point of reading a book, understanding the central messages that an author is trying to convey? In many cases I feel that annotations causes a distraction, which causes the reader to fail to understand the overall meaning of a book. I wonder if authors intended for their books to be read in this manner? I would love to ask them what they think about the concept of annotations.