Teaching Annotation & Analysis: Critical Analysis Boot Camp

One of my FAVORITE parts of teaching English at the high school level is analyzing texts with students. I love when they get their hands on a text and know they have to tools to come up with meaning and form an opinion on their own.

A great strategy to give students those tools is close reading, where students get into the nitty gritty of a text by reading it multiple times and combing through both format and content.

Close reading a text can be intimidating for many students, though, so I like to front-load them by directly teaching annotation and analysis techniques.

This year I am trying a little something new - actually, I’m trying a whole lot of little something’s new… Instead of teaching various close reading analysis techniques for each text we cover in class as we cover them, I am putting my students through a “Critical Analysis Boot Camp.” Over a course of three, 90-minute class periods, students in my 10th grade English class will read, annotate, and analyze 5 different types of texts, each through different critical lenses.

Yes, it’s a lot. But it is also completely doable…

This boot camp will begin with an overview and discussion of why we read, followed by some brainstorming of what, exactly, is a text. Next, I will introduce Literary Theory and (briefly) walk through some of the critical lenses they will be asked to apply in this class.

[I have a very specific list of steps I have my students take when close reading and analyzing a text, as well as specific annotation marks so that we have a common annotation “language” - these specifics can be found on my Analysis and Annotation Cheat Sheet.]

Finally, it’s analysis time! I will do a think-aloud (my favorite!) for students as I read, annotate, and analyze two very different types of texts - an article and a video of a dance performance.

Students will all have a copy of the article and will follow along with me, making the same annotation marks I make and jotting down the same notes as me in the margin. They will also help me to synthesize the message of the article into a 1-2 sentence analysis statement.

The performance analysis will go quite similarly, except that instead of annotating and note-taking on the text itself, they will record this part on a separate sheet of paper. Since a written text is not available for a dance performance, the annotations will be accompanied by notes that explain the moment in question, as well as a time stamp from the video. Again, students will help me craft a 1-2 sentence analysis statement of the performance.

After following along with me for the two sample texts, students are on their own to analyze five types of texts - short story, article/essay, painting, song, and film clip. For each type of text, they will have 4-5 texts to choose from (they analyze one of each type of text). Each different type of text will also have a specific critical lens for students to consider during their analysis.

One thing I have developed this year to aide students in their annotations and analyses of class texts is Annotation Kits for each table. They are pretty simple - just a little crate with different colors and sizes of sticky notes, various highlighters, and a pack of colored pencils, PLUS enough Annotation and Analysis Cheat Sheets to go around. Students will be able to annotate any type of text easily with these kits on hand!

The Annotation and Analysis Cheat Sheet is available through my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Caffeinated Curriculum - I printed mine back to back and laminated them so that they will (hopefully) last!

What are your go-to strategies for teaching students annotation and analysis techniques? Please share in the comments below!

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