Writing in the Margins – Adding structure and questioning for students

This strategy has become something that I love using and can’t imagine teaching without it! It goes by many names, annotation flip chart, writing in the margins chart, the one-pager, that note thingy…you name it! It’s helped my students for the past two years become more engaged readers and has given them some direction for making annotations on a text. So much thanks to my instructional coach for creating this and showing us great ways to implement it in the classroom!

The great thing about this flip chart is that it can be used in any content. Critical thinking is required is every content area and this gives teachers of other contents are great resource to have students engage with primary sources, word problems in math, scientific texts and more. A lot of what I’ve heard from other content areas is that they would love to have students do something like this, but since ELAR is not their expertise, they aren’t quite sure where to start. Also, if you aren’t into foldables, there is a one pager version that is front and back with a grid that has the headings and stems. No cutting, folding or gluing required!

So enjoy this great resource as you (reluctantly) start thinking about the upcoming school year. Below the photos you can read a summary with more specifics on how to use the chart, feel free to send any questions my way!

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Writing in the Margins Flip Chart

This flip chart is used mainly in our English Language Arts and Reading classrooms, but last year we branched out and shared it with our Social Studies and Special Education departments.

It has been a great tool in all three departments to help students successfully annotate/close read a text. The tabs feature a definition of the reading skill as well as sentence starters and question stems.

In practice, the students will spend the first few weeks of school using the chart section-by-section with a high-interest text. A mini-lesson goes along with each section of the chart to ensure the student is learning the skill and that the flip chart can be a helpful resource.

The flip chart sections are: clarify, visualize, connect, question, infer, summarize, and respond. Each skill should have a mini lesson to focus on the types of questions that focus on that skill. The entire flipchart won’t be used all at once, but rather the skills will build upon each other.

Once there is a basic understanding of each skill and the students learn how to navigate the chart, we use it every time we read any stories or informational text in class. To specifically guide instruction and practice, teachers will assign students to focus on certain tabs to write their annotations. The chart supports students’ use of complete sentences in writing and speaking as the sentence stems also come in handy for structuring classroom discussion centered around a text.

This chart can be used in any content because the sentence stems provide a structure for analysis of any type of reading activity.

Writing in the Margins Flip Chart Checklist

  1. Provide explicit lessons on each type of annotation with time for practice before expecting students to use the entire chart
  2. Scaffold learning applying one annotation skill at a time
  3. Have students read annotations to a partner
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