Why should students and teachers annotate?

Why should students and teachers annotate?

While studying what makes students successful or unsuccessful on Newsela quizzes, we noticed that some students had been annotating text to help them prepare for quiz questions, as shown in the image below.

Annotation_Question_20141022 (2).png

Intrigued, we decided to compare students' performance when one or more of their annotations in an article tied explicitly to a quiz item.

We learned that on average, students perform nearly one letter grade better when they annotate the text before they take the quiz or while they are taking the quiz. Moreover, we found that this tactic was particularly useful for Common Core Anchor Standard 1, "What the Text Says." When the quizzes were aligned with this standard, students' scores improved by 15 percent on quizzes above grade level.




Why Teachers Should Annotate

We already know that annotations are a great way to measure student engagement within an article and that annotations lead to increased student success. Still, we wondered: when teachers share annotations with their students, does it make the student more likely to annotate? 

To answer this question, we looked at over 21,000 annotations from teachers. As shown below, we saw that teachers use annotations in many different ways -- some like to ask their students questions, while others like to help define words, or  assess comprehension.

Annotations where teachers ask questions to students


Annotations where teachers help with vocabulary understanding


Annotations where teachers assess sectional comprehension


Impact of Sharing Annotations

Then we looked at over 125,000 student annotations which corresponded to the annotating teachers. The evidence was clear. It does matter when a teacher shares annotations with a student. In fact,

Students are more than five times more likely to annotate if their teacher annotates

Why More Likely to Annotate?

So we know students are more than five times more likely to annotate an article when their teacher their annotations. That leads to a second question: what is prompting the student to annotate more?

To answer this, we wanted to see if:

  1. students were responding to annotations and/or
  2. students were annotating articles that were assigned by their teachers.

Now, it’s important to note that a student can respond to a teacher’s annotations once a teacher has shared his/her annotations with their class. Additionally, teachers can assign articles to students.

It’s no coincidence that 73% of the 142,000 student annotations have either one or both of these properties. Their annotations are either responding to teacher’s annotations and/or part of completing their article assignment.

Student Annotations Associated with Teacher Annotations


So how do we get students to annotate more?

Teachers can help their students get into the habit of annotating by making it a routine any time students read a Newsela article.  Annotating helps students read actively and monitor their own comprehension as they read. There are a variety of ways that you can get your students hooked on annotating Newsela articles, as explained in this article.

While we’ve done our annotation homework, there could certainly be other reasons why students are 5 times more likely to annotate when their teachers do. Teachers, tweet us @Newsela and use the hashtag #HowINewsela to let us know what else is compelling your students to annotate articles.

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