Writing on the Reading 2.0

Write on reading

One of my favourite teaching strategies for active reading is the tried-and-true method Write on the Reading, from the Project for the Enhancement of Effective Learning (PEEL) an organisation of teachers who promote good learning behaviours through strategies targeting poor learning tendencies. In this case, annotating readings with notes – questions, points of contention, and so on – is a strategy that helps students to avoid superficial reading. I’ve embellished my writings-on-readings with colours to represent styles of thinking and organising principles, finding that students comprehend much more than with traditional reading and can readily apply their own opinions more effectively to the ideas in the text.

Recently, with my Year 11 Advanced English class, we’ve been exploring the version 2.0 of this strategy – a writing-on-reading of critical literature on Jane Austen in preparation for our comparative study of Emma and Clueless. I wanted my students to really appreciate the historical context in which Austen authored her novels and thereby have a much better understanding than they would if reading Emma ‘cold turkey.’

Screen shot 2011 06 02 at 5 51 25 PM

Google Docs makes conversion of PDF files, Word documents and other document formats easy, and we’ve found the comments feature really interesting for discussing the text in the margins. Here’s the start of a conversation about anonymity and female authorship in the early C.19th.


Screen shot 2011 06 02 at 6 19 30 PM

I love the way that these comments are recorded for future reference, and have found that discussing the comments can often be more insightful than a discussion of the original text. As an English teacher, I believe that what we bring to our analysis of texts is just as important as the texts themselves and I find myself learning so much from my own analyses and those of my kids.

I’ve also really enjoyed exploring colours and fonts as a way of representing different thinking styles and organising principles. As a starting point, I recommend teachers consider simple approaches, like:

Red = points of contention

Blue = big ideas

Black = further explanation/elaboration of ideas and/or key concepts

Green = other examples from outside the text

Of course, the most exciting feature of this technology is the extent to which it enables genuine collaboration. For this activity, I shared the text with my entire class and was amazed to see how effectively we were able to read the text, discuss, annotate and apply the information all in one lesson!


About Michael

Cellist, singer/songwriter, school teacher, nerd, recent scooter enthusiast and failed philosopher.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Writing on the Reading 2.0

  1. MAT says:

    Another great development of a good idea Michael. Glad to see PEEL ideas still flourishing. – Marita

  2. Cyndy says:

    I love the idea of using fonts and colours to represent styles and principles as this creates an easy to identify visual interpretation of the text.

  3. Jason says:

    Love the idea of colours and fonts to represent organizational principles in writing. Primary students love the use of colour and I have been attempting to remove some of the stereotypical behaviors associated with various colours (like red being negative etc). Great categories by which to break down the writing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s