What to look for when annotating

Annotating structure

Read the text and look for patterns in the structure, for example:

  • Sentence length and type - eg single or multi-clause sentences.
  • Paragraph lengths and structure - eg focus on how the paragraph opens and closes.
  • Repeated words and phrases.
  • The order of ideas in the extract - eg where does the narrative start? Does the focus shift?

Annotating language and literary techniques

  • Highlight any interesting language features in the text.
  • Pick out examples of literary devices that stand out because they’re unusual, or because they link closely to the character, theme or setting.
  • Highlight individual words to explore closely - those with particular connotations or ones that seem to relate to the theme of the text.

Annotating characterisation and voice

  • Pick out key elements which show the development of characters.
  • Look for phrases that reveal key details about characters. For example, you might highlight an example of where a character’s appearance is linked to a theme.
  • Find clues about the main voice in the piece. Is the story told in first, second or third-person? Highlight points where narrative voice is shown through the language.
  • Is the author using voice for a particular effect? Pick out examples of where they do so.

Annotating for themes and ideas

  • Highlight any words or phrases that link to the main themes or a particular semantic field.

Example

Here is an example of some selective annotations. The student is focused on the language choices in this extract:

Annotations including highlighting and underlining made to a body of text.
  • metaphor - ‘Nana’s fine hair floated in a halo around her head’ – positive connotations
  • sibilance – the repeated use of the letter s adds softness here
  • personification – their ‘dark fingers’ is sinister, but then contrasts with the adverb ‘gently’
  • personal pronouns – the use of ‘our’, ‘us’ and ‘we’ – sense of family
  • tricolon of three single clause sentences – creates rhythm and interest for reader
curriculum-key-fact
Avoid making so many annotations that you can no longer read the text! Be selective, and pick out the details that interest you.
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