Jul 11 2010

Writing in the Margin

Deploying document cameras in the classroom can strengthen students' reading comprehension skills.

Deploying document cameras in the classroom can strengthen students’ reading comprehension skills.

Reading comprehension strategies, such as underlining, circling and taking notes in the margins of the studied text, help students process information across many content areas. Unfortunately, students' opportunities to practice these skills are limited because much of what they're asked to read is in textbooks, in which they can't write. But with document cameras, active reading is possible with any text.

Lesson Description: For this activity you'll need a document camera, a projector, the text selected for analysis and a whiteboard or large sheet of paper on which students can write. Project an image of the text using the document camera. Divide students into small collaborative groups, then direct them to write on their own paper which keywords and phrases they would underline, which important or unknown vocabulary words they would circle and what notes they would take in the margins to identify main ideas and explain major concepts.

Select students to come forward to write over the projected text image the words or passages they have marked and any notes they have taken. Discuss accuracy as a class to help students analyze whether they've recorded too little or too much information. Practicing this activity frequently can vastly improve comprehension by showing students how to take effective notes on their own paper when reading, even if they aren't allowed to write in a textbook.

Subject Area: This activity works well with middle- and secondary-level students studying any subject that requires them to process information through reading, such as language arts, social studies and science.

Curriculum Standards: This lesson addresses the following curriculum standards set forth by the International Society for Technology in Education's National Educational Technology Standards for Students and the International Reading Association's Standards for the English Language Arts:

  • ISTE 2: Students use digital media and environments to work collaboratively to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  • IRA 1: Students read to build an understanding of texts and to acquire new information.
  • IRA 3: Students apply a range of strategies to comprehend, interpret and evaluate texts.




Grading Rubric: Students' grades should be based on their ability to:

  • identify a reading selection's main idea by writing a short phrase in their own words for each paragraph;
  • identify key supporting details by underlining;
  • identify key and unknown vocabulary by circling.


Teaching Tips

  • Decide on standard marking conventions, such as underlining key concepts and phrases and circling unknown vocabulary words.
  • Model the use of brief phrases in the margins to describe the main idea of a paragraph or group of paragraphs.
  • Use a document camera to highlight text when working with special student groups, such as struggling readers, students with learning disabilities and English Language Learners.

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