I like diagramming sentences. My teachers revisited diagramming year after year. That was during the dark ages when the information in textbooks wasn’t obsolete by the time the books made it to a classroom. My two youngest children have no idea how or why to diagram a sentence. There probably isn’t time for diagramming.
I like annotating. Well, I thought I liked annotating. Annotating, to me, is highlighting the sentences that stand out from the page. It is making a mark above words that you aren’t sure of, but which don’t matter enough to stop reading and look up the meaning until you finish that chapter. Annotating is responding to a character or the author in the margins of the book. There were two books that I read repeatedly in high school. I highlighted and wrote all over them as if I was having conversations with a friend. It was not required by my teachers. I did it because I wanted to do it. I no longer annotate my books. Now, I take a picture of a line I like and Instagram it or post the quote on Twitter or Facebook.
I like that the middle school teaches annotation. It should guide students to better comprehend what they are reading. I like that the students listen to the audio book while they annotate as a group. The school is trying to reach all kinds of learners. Still, something is not quite right. Students are sitting with a guide of what marks to make and where to make them. They are visually scanning text to complete an assignment. They aren’t getting lost in the stories and the characters. Books that should be making them think and feel are made as bland as worksheets.
My middle schooler insists that they are “supposed” to annotate as they read. I can’t convince her to read a chapter with a highlighter in hand for the sentences she likes, then go back to do the mandatory identification of literary devices and characters. It’s like trying to help with math homework. “My teacher doesn’t do it that way” is code for ‘I’m not going to cooperate.’
My older three children were readers. My youngest two are not readers. All of the children grew up with computers and video games. They all had cell phones. I don’t know the combination of causes that has led to the preference for YouTube videos of other people playing Minecraft over books. I know that the difference in my oldest children and my youngest children’s education and their attitudes about reading is palpable and it is most profound in my youngest child.
I refuse to stop trying to find that one book that makes reading come alive for these two. I will continue to try new things to make reading enjoyable. I don’t think annotating entire books as a class is helping make reading fun.