Category Archives: reading-writing connection

7 symbols early readers can use to annotate texts

Annotating texts is an important reading skill.  Finding the main idea, identifying ideas which support that main idea, identifying facts (not opinions), discovering new or unusual words—as adults we know to look for this kind of information and to annotate it in the margins as we read.

But what if you are a beginning reader and can’t write words like “main idea” or even “fact”?  How do you annotate a text so you can go back and understand it better?

An elementary school in the Bronx has figured out how.  The school teaches preschoolers to mark texts with the following seven symbols.  (The meaning of the symbols follows.)   

Marking the text this way is part of Concourse Village Elementary School’s way of helping students understand what they read.  And it works!  88 percent of students scored at the advanced or proficient levels on the New York State exams in both math and English language arts in 2018.  That’s more than 40 points higher than the citywide averages.  To find out more information, go to an article in Edutopia at https://www.edutopia.org/article/driving-deep-reading-comprehension-k-5.

Which comes first—reading or writing?

For many little kids, writing comes first.  Not writing words but writing pictures to tell stories.

I was with a four-year-old recently, and listened as he explained his drawing on a white board in his house.  On the left were three smiling stick figures—a tall one who was waving, a medium-sized one with long hair, and a short one.  “That’s my dad, that’s my mom, and that’s me,” he said.

Next was what looked like a rocket ship in motion.  “We are flying,” he explained.

Farther along in the drawing was a circular object.  “That’s the moon,” he said.

“Are you going to the moon?” I asked.

“No!” he said, rather disgusted with my reasoning.  “We are going to Brazil.”

At the far right of the white board were the long-haired stick figure and the short stick figure, almost falling off the edge of the white board.  “Now me and Mom are in Brazil.”

This story’s ideas came from the child’s head—he will be traveling to Brazil soon with his mother—but also from the many books his parents have read to him (and the many cartoons he has watched).  From those sources he has unconsciously learned that stories are written in English from left to right; that they have a beginning, middle and end; that they are told in chronological order; and that they contain characters who do something.

This child can write his name.  He knows the alphabet in English and in Portuguese.  He can read some sight words in English.  But he cannot write a story in words.

Yet he can write a story in pictures, incorporating many of the fundamental aspects of story-telling.

So which comes first—reading or writing?