Anno-texting: get students to evaluate their discussions

The following post is cross-posted from Amplified Learning.

As EAL teacher in grade 5 at my school, I collaborate with teachers to provide language instruction. My grade 5 team does Literature Circles with their students and we had started some walk-throughs in each other’s classes on how we each did Literature Circles. Some of us felt students weren’t showing enough quality discussions, some of us weren’t quite sure what to look for or how to communicate to students what that should look like. We’d tried fishbowl activities, plenty of modelling, but we still felt some groups weren’t getting the most out of this potentially enriching activity- so how could we improve this? How could we get the students to reflect themselves on what quality discussion looked like?

Earlier, I had come across Annotexting on Sylvia Tolisano’s blog Langwitches.

“Annotexting is a process that involves the collection of thoughts, observations and reactions to reading that show evidence of critical thought. These annotations, rather than being on paper, can be collected with different web tools so that students can collaborate, both locally and globally, around the conclusions that they will ultimately draw from their reading.”

Here was an opportunity for deep inquiry into the students’ own reading behaviours through the use of technology. On top of that, if they blogged about it and then tweeted their post to their book’s author- that would be a rich opportunity for global collaboration. So here is how we went about it:

  • First, we introduced the students to the kinds of things you should be hearing during a Literature Circles discussion. We put the behaviours on sheets of paper across the room and students were asked to add examples of their own discussions. This gave us a good idea of their understanding.

  • We showed them a few videos of annotexted literature discussions, provided by Sylvia Tollisano.
  • Then, we asked one group of students to create an annotexted discussion, based on the criteria we had given them.
  • This group was then asked to explain the process and show their video to the other classes.

We still weren’t satisfied that all students were able to label their discussions- so one of my co-teachers and I decided to model a discussion and record it for the other two classes. While they were watching they each had a feature of what they should be looking for. We replayed the video and stopped it at places where they wanted to add their suggestions.

Students are now in the process of creating reflective blogposts with embedded videos of their literature circles discussions. It will be interesting to see whether, if they tweet their post to the author of their book, they will get a response. It will also be interesting to see how much attention they will give to crafting their blogpost, if they know a real writer will potentially be their audience!

It’s obvious to us that in order for students to become better at anno-texting, we will need to make it a regular activity.