“Students start reaching out to me to say, “I didn’t get why we were doing this at first, and almost right away I got what we were doing because it made it where I felt I could take risks and write something. I wasn’t going to get dinged if I was wrong, I was allowed to take a risk in my interpretation. I could immediately see what my peers were doing and that led me in the right way, without stealing their ideas.’”
How do you get your students started with social annotation?
I have a video that I’ve created where I talk about annotations, and then just hold up my regular books and show them all the markings that I have. I try to demystify what a lot of them feel coming out of high school, especially where they weren’t allowed to write in their books. So I show them what I do and how reading strategies work, and then I show how to do that online, actually going through Hypothesis.
What has been the biggest benefit of using Hypothesis?
In English 1B we have a lot of students who are not English majors reading things that might be difficult. They haven’t really been taught how to slow down and get their reading process on the page. I come from a background of reading apprenticeship, and I felt it was really constructive to teach reading apprenticeship in person. But it was hard for me to translate that online, and that’s actually why I started looking for something that would allow me to teach them how to write annotations, and what that would look like. I wasn’t thinking at that point about collaborative annotation and then I realized that that is actually what I wanted. I didn’t want it just to be where they were making their own annotations.
How are your Hypothesis assignments different from other work your students do?
Well, in annotations they are not always writing in complete paragraphs. Sometimes it is just these little snippets. And then the student might say “Oh, now I’m getting it!” and a little lightbulb comes on. And I am in there too, periodically, to redirect as needed. It just made students feel comfortable taking risks and actually sticking to the words. They stay with the words because they have to leave annotations… They’re not worried about impostor syndrome. They’re not worried about stereotype threat. There’s none of that. It’s very low pressure. It’s a level playing field, right? No one’s really showing off.
What do you like most about using Hypothesis?
There is something great when a student comes up with something that I hadn’t even thought of, or I didn’t think my students would catch, and somebody catches it, and then everyone comments, “Oh, my gosh! You totally made me see this differently” which tells me that they really are looking at each other’s annotations. When you only have a seven line poem and see students dissecting every word, and really starting to interact – there is something I just think is beautiful about reading those.
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