Throughout our careers, Matt and I have tinkered with many annotation or note-taking strategies. We have found some strategies to be overwhelming, and some to have marginal utility. After a lot of collaboration with our trusted colleagues and experimentation in the classroom, we think we have found an annotation strategy that is easy to remember, easy to use, and leads students towards unlocking the most important parts of a short fiction text. We call this strategy 4-Corner Notes.
There are several things that we love about 4-Corner Notes:
- Since PARCC is taken on a computer and students can’t directly mark-up the text, we needed to develop a strategy that allows kids to take notes on a separate piece of paper.
- With only 4 areas of focus, all kids can easily memorize and reproduce this graphic organizer on test day.
- As teachers of students with a wide range of current abilities, this strategy provides an access point for the vast majority of our students; while many students will struggle with inferential concepts on PARCC texts, nearly all students can jot down the main plot details and the setting.
- Each box that students fill out helps them to fill out the next box. As students begin to list the main events in a text, they will naturally be able to identify the most important characters and their key traits. Then, as students trace key character traits throughout the story it will help them to think about how characters have changed. Finally, themes can often be inferred by analyzing how and why a character has changed.
- Since PARCC is timed for the majority of students, we actually don’t want students to spend too much time taking notes. This strategy essentially forces students to write no more than one page of notes.
Drop us a line in the comments to let us know if this strategy is helpful!