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Correction: Some teachers are assessing annotations

annotations A few posts ago, I wrote that teachers should begin assessing reading more directly, perhaps by looking at students’ annotations.

My assumption was that very few teachers are using annotations for formative assessment of reading.

I think I’m still mostly right, but I did find a rubric online from Achievement First, a network of charter schools founded in New Haven. Take a look.

My first impressions: It’s great that they’ve done this work, and it’s nice to know that I’m not the only crazy person out there who thinks that it’s possible to use annotations as a way to figure out how students are reading.

But I’m not sure how teachers use this rubric to assess annotations. It seems pretty general. I’d love to know more about what Achievement First is doing. I’ll contact them tomorrow and keep you updated.

Update: I received an excellent email this morning from Kurtis Indorf, Achievement First’s senior director of program strategy and design. Mr. Indorf emphasized that the general nature of the rubric was intentional. Rather than focusing on whether a student knows how to annotate, the rubric aims to assess how well the student interacts with and understands a text.

I agree with Mr. Indorf, and I appreciate that Achievement First is doing this work. We must unmask reading and make it more public. Teachers must be able to see their students’ reading as a product that they can assess. Only by making reading less hidden can we teach students how to read better. 


  1. Trisha

    Hi Mark,

    I feel like this rubric is something I could work with as a starting point. I’m curious about what Achievement First means by “breaks reading down into progressively smaller units.” I’m imagining this means looking at meaning and connotation at the sentence level, word level etc. The comprehension portion seems to line up with our reading symbols, but the inferencing section of the rubric make me realize I’d have to adapt the think aloud symbols to also build in the HOTS and analyzing skills the rubric identifies. Based on the rubric, it does seem like students would be doing A LOT of annotating. I wonder, sometimes, how much is too much? Reading and annotating comes very naturally to me, but when working with some of my students who have learning disabilities it seems difficult for them to do both. They comment that it interrupts their flow and some actively resist the idea. I’m wondering how to do oral versions of annotations so there’s less writing (maybe there’s some nifty techy way). Or maybe I’d use 1-2 sections of the rubric at a time depending on what I’m assessing? Thanks for sharing!

    • Mark Isero

      Hi Trisha, I agree with you that there needs to be a balance when asking students to annotate. My feeling is to break it up into two pieces: (1) interacting with the text (trying to make sense of it, making meaning), (2) comprehending/analyzing the text (after getting more help from your teacher and peers).

      I also agree that we should use audio to record some of the thinking. Students could work with their teacher or with partners. The student could talk while the other person annotates. It would be a neat way to work together and to learn different ways to think about and to annotate a text. Plus, having an audio record would be great for the student to analyze, too.

Please share your brilliant insights!