Normally we have a purpose for reading. Sometimes we read simply because a teacher assigned a reading. Other times it’s to find out how to do something or for entertainment. Knowing your purpose before reading helps you to determine what to annotate.
If you’re not sure of your purpose, think about what you want to learn or recall from the reading:
Although it might take you a while to read all the surrounding materials, they give important clues about what you need to learn from the reading.
Let’s consider a school scenario.
Your teacher has asked you to synthesize the main ideas in two poems: “The World Is Too Much with Us” by William Wordsworth and “Variation on a Theme by Rilke” by Denise Levertov. After reading the poems, you are supposed to answer a set of questions.
The poems appear in your textbook. Several pages, including authors’ biographies and pre-reading activities, precede the poems. You have photocopied all of the pages, including the poems, so that you can annotate them freely.
The following are the photocopied pages from your textbook. Read through each page before you begin annotating. After you have a purpose in mind and have read through the poems, begin your annotation. You can download each PDF and print it to annotate the pages that follow, or you can copy and paste the text in your notes and annotate it electronically.
Again, use the annotation ideas provided earlier to mark up the introduction to the readings and the two poems (PDFs #1 and #2). Keep your purpose in mind. When you are finished with your annotations, use them to answer the literary analysis questions (PDF #3).
After you’ve annotated the first page of your PDF, think about these questions and write down your answers.
Now look at the first poem you read and annotated, “The World is Too Much with Us.” Think about these questions and write down your answers. To see my response to these questions, check your understanding below.
Let’s look a little more closely at my annotation. I’ll point out just a few of the marks I made on the poem and in the margins. You can see from the amount of writing on the page that I’ve had a serious conversation with this poem!
Let’s move on to Denise Levertov's poem, “Variation on a Theme by Rilke.” Think about these questions and write down your answers. To see my response to these questions, check your understanding below.
Now let’s discuss the literary analysis questions on the last page of the Annotation PDF.
Think about your annotation for literary analysis questions.
Now let’s look at the literary analysis questions and see how you responded to the questions themselves. Click on “Check Your Understanding” each question to see my responses.
He means that people are too focused on materialism rather than nature.Close
The speaker in “Variation on a Theme by Rilke” says that nature “struck” him/her, but when we read on, we find that the image is about a subject being knighted by a king, so struck takes on a different meaning, which makes the experience positive for the speaker.Close
His details focus on the sea, winds, and sleeping flowers. Her details talk about light, sky, and day.Close
If the sound comes from the bell rather than the sword, it lends a positive tone to the poem since we as readers use our experience with bells to hear what the speaker hears.The speaker is also confirming the power and beauty of nature and a personal connection to it.Close
Pagans worship gods related to nature. The two gods he mentions are both gods of the seas, and were he to be a Pagan, he might feel a connection with his gods when he looks at the sea.Close
They both suggest the importance of humankind's relationship with nature. Wordsworth mourns the loss of connectedness to it and Levertov celebrates it.Close