How to Annotate

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How to

To Annotate: to explain, interpret, comment on, make notes about. As you read, stop occasionally to record your thoughts, reactions, connections and concerns. Dialogue with the text.

FICTION Look Fors:
Setting: How it’s described (date, time, place, weather); What kind of MOOD does the setting create?
2. Character: Descriptions (physical, behavioral, emotional); Consider: How they speak; What you learn about them (from their description, actions, interactions with others, dialogue, and what others say about them). Is there a foil? Why?
3. Conflict: Look for both the internal and the external as well as what causes them.
4. Plot: What are the key events? Why/how are they important?
5. Theme: Find passages (of narration or dialogue) that suggest or connect to a universal truth, lesson, or statement about society or humanity.
6. Symbolism: Note any objects, characters, or ideas that serve to represent something beyond themselves.
7. Tone: what are the narrator’s feelings toward the subject matter?; emotion and how it is conveyed?
8. Mood: How does a particular passage, description, event, etc. affect you? How are you feeling as you read?
9. Language and style: Comment on the author’s use of motifs (recurring objects or ideas), note literary examples of figurative language, imagery, foreshadowing, organization, or other literary devices. Most importantly, don’t merely IDENTIFY devices used. Talk about HOW the use of the devices help the author make his point, develop the theme, the plot, etc.
10. Question: Note items that you don’t understand (vocabulary, phrase, etc.)
11. Predict: what do you think will come next?
12. Infer: Make an educated guess about characters or events based on what you already know.
13. Visualize: What do you picture as you read this passage?
14. Make connections: What does this passage remind you of; something you’ve read about, seen on TV or at the movies, a place you’ve visited, etc.?
15. Audience: To whom might the text be directed?

Non-Fiction Look Fors:
1. Subject: What is the subject of the text? What makes you think so?
2. Occasion: What is the context of the text? When was it written? What do you know about the period? Setting? Speaker?
3. Tone: What are the author’s feelings toward the subject? How is it conveyed? Which devices are used to create the tone?
4. Speaker: What do we know (if anything) about the speaker/author?
5. Mood: How does a particular passage, description, event, etc. affect the reader? How do you think the intended audience is expected to feel as they listen, read, etc.?
6. Language and style: Comment on the author’s use of literary and rhetorical devices (eg: allusions, metaphors, repetition, anaphora, etc.). Consult your glossary of AP Lang terms. What is the effect of each device? (Consider the three appeals: ethos, pathos, logos.)
7. Questions: Put a question mark in the margin next to any ideas/passages/terms you don’t understand or need further clarification. Look up any terms/vocabulary.
8. Predict/infer: What do you think will come next? Is there a call to action by the end of the text? What does the speaker seem (directly or indirectly) want the audience to do, consider, try, etc.?
9. Make connections: What does a passage/entire text/message/style of writing, etc. remind you of?
10. Audience: Who is the intended audience? (Think about the direct and indirect or implied audience.)
11. Organization: How does the author organize the essay and why/how is the organization important?
12. Theme/message: Identify passages that suggest or connect to a universal truth, lesson, or statement.

Annotation Practice Exercise: FICTION

The Birthday Party” By: Katharine Brush

They were a couple in their late thirties, and they looked unmistakably married.

They sat on the banquette opposite us in a little narrow restaurant, having dinner. The

man had a round, self-satisfied face, with glasses on it; the woman was fadingly pretty, in

a big hat.

There was nothing conspicuous about them, nothing particularly noticeable, until

the end of their meal, when it suddenly became obvious that this was an Occasion—in

fact, the husband’s birthday, and the wife had planned a little surprise for him.

It arrived, in the form of a small but glossy birthday cake, with one pink candle

burning in the center. The headwaiter brought it in and placed it before the husband, and

meanwhile the violin-and-piano orchestra played “Happy Birthday to You,” and the wife

beamed with shy pride over her little surprise, and such few people as there were in the

restaurant tried to help out with a pattering of applause. It became clear at once that help

was needed, because the husband was not pleased. Instead, he was hotly embarrassed,

and indignant at his wife for embarrassing him.

You looked at him and you saw this and you thought, “Oh, now, don’t be like

that!” But he was like that, and as soon as the little cake had been deposited on the table,

and the orchestra had finished the birthday piece, and the general attention had shifted

from the man and the woman, I saw him say something to her under his breath—some

punishing thing, quick and curt and unkind. I couldn’t bear to look at the woman then, so

I stared at my plate and waited for quite a long time. Not long enough, though. She was

still crying when I finally glanced over there again. Crying quietly and heartbrokenly and

hopelessly, all to herself, under the gay big brim of her best hat.

Annotation Practice Exercise: NON-FICTION

Document created by: Kerri Mauer, Montgomery County Public Schools

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