Annotation: How to Get the Most Out of Your Summer Reading

Annotation: How to Get the Most Out of Your Summer Reading

Everyone wants to start out the new school year making a good impression on his or her teacher. And one of the best ways to do that is to come in on the first day of school with something to say about the books you were assigned for summer reading.

Unfortunately, if you’re planning on doing your summer reading while lounging at the pool, it can be really easy to let your mind wander while you read and end up skimming an entire chapter without really understanding it.

So how can you be more focused on the book? Annotation.

Annotation is the process of writing down notes in the margin of a text or highlighting important points while you’re reading. Annotating not only keeps your mind more focused on what you’re reading, but it can also make it really easy to study for a quiz or write a paper later when you have already written down significant passages and phrases to go back to again.

So what exactly should you be writing down? Here are a few tips on how to annotate to get the most out of your reading.

  1. Highlight or Underline the Main Ideas
    When you’re reading a difficult text, it can be easy to get lost in the extraneous details and lose sight of what it’s really all about. That’s why keeping on the lookout for sentences that summarize a main idea is a great way of distilling a text down into what you really need to know. What you don’t want to do is highlight an entire page!
  2. Read Between the Lines
    Another way to get to the main point of a passage is to try to look for the subtext in what the author is saying. For example, if a character puts on his boots with a huff and avoids eye contact with someone before running out of the door, what is the author trying to convey with those actions? Do you think the character is angry? Feels guilty? Is anxious? Try to read between the lines to get at the character’s feelings and motivations.
  3. Write Down Your Thoughts About the Story
    Have you ever watched a movie with a friend and said something like, “Why would she go down that dark alley?! Doesn’t she know the bad guy is there?” You can do the same thing when you’re reading a book. Whenever you wonder why a character is doing something or you have an observation about something they are doing, write that down in the margin.
  4. Write Down Your Thoughts About How the Story Is Written
    Another annotation trick is to try to think about why the author made certain choices as he or she was writing. English teachers LOVE to talk about symbolism, so it’s always a good idea to be on the lookout for objects or imagery that seems especially symbolic. For example, you might write down, “I wonder what Holden’s red hunting had is supposed to symbolize?” or “I bet these characters are in a forest to symbolize feeling lost in their lives.”
  5. Make Predictions
    It can be fun to try to figure out where a story is going as you’re reading it. Whenever you think you know what’s going to happen, write that down. Then when you’re finished, you can go back and review your notes and see if you guessed correctly. If not, you can probably write a great paper comparing and contrasting the characters from the beginning of the book to the end.
  6. Circle Unfamiliar Words
    Instead of just skipping over words you don’t know, circle them and then look up their definitions. This will not only help you with understanding the sentence and its context better, but will also help if you have a vocabulary quiz, too.

Remember, spending a few extra minutes annotating your book as you do your summer reading will give you a huge leg up when you need to talk about it when school starts!