Monday, November 25, 2013

Reading with a Pencil - Even Mark Twain Did It!

Mark Twain the author of such literary greats as Puddn'head Wilson and Huckleberry Finn was also a humorist and essayist.  His avid reading took him across disciplines as was common in 19th century America and some of his annotations have been featured in an article on "Twain's Viciously Funny Marginalia".

Heaven help John Dryden, the translator of Plutarch's Lives, which, is "Translated from the Greek" into, as Twain annotates, "rotten English . . . the whole carefully revised and corrected by an ass."  As you can see, Twain had some strong feelings about the English language and did not hesitate to talk back to his texts.

On the title page of Saratoga in 1901, Twain renames the volume Saratoga in 1891, or The Droolings of an Idiot.

What do you look for when annotating a text?  Are you summarizing paragraphs in the margin? Are you talking back to the text the way Twain does?

When you talk back to a text you are engaging in critical thinking, probably the most important skill you should take away from college.  In addition to writing memory prompt marginalia, what kind of annotations do you use that engages you with a text?  In other words, what kind of critical thinking do you employ when reading with a pencil? 

26 comments:

  1. In my opinion, it is important to annotate the article when we are reading it. It helps us remember what we are reading, and it also helps us a lot to find out thesis and important sentences of the article. Annotating an article is one of the most important skills we should have as a college student. Personally, I annotate every article I read, and I have started to do this since high school. It helps me a lot.

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  2. When annotating a text I look for interesting facts and and points of view from the author that I can agree or disagree with. I like 'talking back' to the text and giving my input on certain things depending on what spikes my curiosity. I put these feelings and thoughts into the margins because they really help me keep track of my thoughts on a particular paragraph and writing on the margin is also a great way of taking short notes as well. Other annotations I use to engage with a text would be asking questions on certain phrases or sentences I find confusing or enlightning and feel I should do follow up questions a little more in-depth.

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  3. When I annotate an article, its a combination of both summarizing and having a conversation with what I'm reading. When I summarize I do it for two reasons: the first is to translate the reading into something easy and comprehensible to remember. The second is to test myself to see if I actually understand it, and if I don't, I write it into something I can understand. When I annotate its also like having a conversation with what I'm reading. I write questions and interact as if I was having a conversation. The critical thinking involved with annotating an article helps you in that it furthers helps your understanding of what you are reading. Here, you are reading and interacting which ensures that you are processing what you read and learn.

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  4. When annotating an article I feel that one should converse with the text; actually interact with it and the ideas and arguments that are portrayed within the writing. Commenting and asking questions regarding the point that the author of the article is trying to make can really help with the thinking and analytic process of reading the article. Annotating can help you realize points that you probably would not even see by just reading the article through and through. And if you're annotating an article for a certain essay all that writing you do in the margin can really help you remember the whole premise of the article in order to bring that idea, or a counter to that idea, out in an essay.

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  5. I never thought it was important to annotate a story,article, or essay you read until I actually did it. I found it extremely helpful in two ways, first it helped my comprehension of the text and second when I looked back at the underlined text and written comments in the margins it helped me remember the main points of the text without having to reread the entire article. When I annotate I look for main points in the article, underline and write a comment in the margins. I also circle words that are unfamiliar, look up the definition, and write in its meaning. Sometimes I interact with the article by responding to particular points I may agree or disagree with. The types of critical thinking you employ when annotating include analyzing, reasoning, and evaluating. If you don't annotate you should begin, you won't regret it.

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  6. I actually enjoy "reading with a pencil" because it makes me become more engaged in the reading. I actually do this with almost anything I read because it helps me to remember what I learned about. I enjoy writing in my books for school if I buy them, but if they are rented I use post its to write a few notes about each page on. I usually summarize the text and ask questions that come to my mind as I read. I also write anything to comes to my mind that I can relate to the text.

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  7. When annotating any piece of literature, I like to underline interesting or confusing concepts. As well, I make connections with concepts I am familiar with, and write that connection somewhere in the margin. If I am reading something with unfamiliar terms, I underline these terms and refer to a dictionary. Once I have defined them, I write synonyms so I can easily recall what I read, but in ways that makes sense to me. This helps me undertsand what I am reading, as opposed to reading something but not grasping the meaning. In the margin, I also like to paraphrase to condense any heavy information.

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  8. When annotating a text, as others here have said here, I like to underline interesting facts and circle words I am not familiar with then go into a dictionary to find out what the word means so I can understand the text reading better. Another thing I like to do is write comments on the interesting fact I underlined on my thoughts about it. For example if i agree with it, then I'll write that and say why I do. As i read I like talking back to the text, asking questions on particular things I find confusing.

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  9. when annotating text I often find myself paraphrasing the text to get a better understanding of what I have just read. I think annotating is a great way to help students who have trouble reading such as myself to understand the text better. I sometimes will talk back to the text and ask questions hoping to get some answers like Mark Twain did. I thin if their was a book that had annotations on the side of the text it would really help students out. I recommend annotating to any student that has trouble understanding what they read its a good tool to use. I have a learning disorder called dyslexia and this learning disorder has made it hard for me all my life BUT TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THAT ANNOTATING REALLY DOES HELP!!! students you should use annotating on a daily basis when reading. ANNOTAING ROCKS PEOPLE AND IM ALL FOR IT!!!

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  10. In my opinion, I'm really keen on this essay, because it actually help me a lot, not only in reading, but also in writing. When I read something, I usually have a pencil and a notebook in my hand. In this way, when I'm reading something interesting, I can underline it and cite it to my notebook at once. As a result, next time when I need to write something, my note could definitely give me the inspirations. Therefore, I think it's a good way to improve both reading and writing ability by "reading with a pencil".

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  11. I rarely read with a pencil in hand. I don't like having notes written all over my books. But considering that when I read it goes throw one ear and out the other I probably should start taking notes. and being in college the reading doesn't get easier it gets harder and longer and having to read something three or four times to really understand it gets annoying when there is about 15 pages to read. reading with a pencil in hand and taking little notes on important things would really be helpful. and I have started doing it when I have a lot of reading and its saves times because im not having to go back and read everything over and over I just look over the notes I have taken to refresh my memory. I mainly take notes on keep points and underline words I don't know.

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  12. This article says that it is important to annotate a text while reading books and articles. When I read a textbook, I focus on a main point and take a note or write short notes in the margin. It is helpful for me to understand the content because I do not have to read the whole article again. In addition, by annotating, I catch the important part of the article. Therefore, annotating is a good studying method for reading.

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  13. When i was in 2nd or 3rd grade, my dad used to always tell me write with pencil and not use cool, easy to use pens. I didn't listen to him at that time because I was thinking pens are cool and they were new to me, so I kept using them, and I wanted to use them frequently and not use pencil. After a while when it wasn't that new for me anymore to use a pencil, I realized that using a pencil is actually better than using a pen. why? I feel that I have more control on what I am writing. It feels like actually you are doing some work to write and you feel the pencil force to write something. Later I found that actually feeling the pencil will help improving your handwriting somehow. It is also much much easier to correct the errors with pencil rather than a pen. Although I didn't listen to my dad and my handwriting is awful now, I appreciate his thought about using pencil instead of pen because they were very helpful lessons which I missed and I highly recommend to every one to use pencil to make their handwriting more beautiful.

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  14. i agree that annotation is an important skill for college student. i didn't know this skill until i came to college. I found annotation very useful when i am reading. when i annotate, i am able to find out the thesis and the supporting points easier. also annotation helps me to brainstorm the author's ideas and come out with my own thoughts. Since English is not my first language, annotation really helps me improving my reading skill.

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  15. While annotating articles I sometimes have the urge to respond in a similar way to Twain. I don't fully understand what annotating articles does for me. Maybe it's because I'm new to the concept, English 122 is the first class that I have been in that has ever required me to annotate. My grandfather was an avid Mark Twain fan so I grew up with a familiarity to Twain's sense of humor. The thing I enjoyed most about this article is that Twain's sense of humor is on full display.

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  16. I think that I am a better creative writer than structured rule-based, MLA-aware writer. College writing courses have really helped me to take my creativity and fit it into "A" (hopefully) papers. That being said my annotations reflect my creative rebellious writing style. I annotate using humor and sarcastic critique. I often include my distain for annotation in my annotations. Annotating is irritating. Good for you Mr. Twain or whatever your name is. You can have the annotations crown and I will continue to consciously and sub- consciously annotate not only books, but the entire world around me, just without the pencil.

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  17. I began annotating text during my senior year of high school--therefore, I feel as though I have had much practice, as I continued to annotate during the first two college English classes I took. I've learned that annotating helps me understand concepts I may be unclear about. I read the entire essay/article marking up the essay with comments around explanations that confuse me or words that I am unclear of. Later, once I have fully annotated, I re-read the article/essay with my annotations and usually I will conclude better understandings of the text. Then I am able to add short paraphrases next to paragraphs. When going back to study the text, these paraphrases are very helpful to quickly conclude what you have already understood.

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  18. To be truthful annotate or annotating are words that I just now, that I have been in college found meaning of or use for. Yes I am a thirty something year old college student. Dam it just got quiet. Anyways, annotating is how I learned to read and write at a college level.It allows me to communicate with the author when reading and helps me to better understand what I'm reading. The cherry on this sundae is that annotating also gets me in gear to write an essay. Excuse me I have to go write one now.

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  19. Honestly, I hate annotating. The only time I do it is when a teacher or professor asks me to. Maybe it does help with my reading, but maybe it doesn't. I feel like if I have to stop in the middle of a paragraph to make a comment or ask a question, it takes my focus off what it is I'm trying to read. Nevertheless, when I annotate, I usually circle words I don't know, or write about how I disagree with something. The annotations in my head are terrible though. My true opinions and comments, usually the inappropriate or rude ones, never make it on paper. Those observations, remarks, or type of criticism, are better off to stay in my head. To answer the question, "what do I look for while annotating?" I look for thoughts and perspectives that really make me think on a deeper level. The reading can be something I totally relate to or something I haven't taken the time to think about too much. If it's caught my attention enough, then I will take time write down my thoughts about it.

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  20. Annotating text i didn't do until my junior year of high school. At first i was confused about it but gradually caught on. For me it helps retain the information alot more because of simply highlighting the words and telling myself to remember to go back and read it, it allows me to pose questions on the text and break it down further. So that later i can remember that answer to the text i didnt understand or had conflict with. I believe i come across annotating the same way as T'wain since im the sarcastic type. It definitely helps

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  21. At first I never use to annotate text, back in high school teachers use to ask me to do all the time and I never would because I never really fully understood it and that it was a total waist of time. Now as a college student I do it all the time and its really helpful especially with reads that a lot more challenging. Most of the time my annotations are questioning the author either about why he felt a certain way about something or what he meant by something. Also do a lot of my annotations about the meaning of words or just underlining what I feel is important or that could possible help either on a test or essay that I may have about the story.

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  22. I'll be the first one to tell you that I personally do not like annotating. While I know that it helps out a lot of people it varies for me. There will be times that I actually understand the text better because I have thought about it more than I would normally. On the other hand I feel like I am just doing it because the teacher assigned it. Annotating has been used for a long time and I can understand why, because you can talk to your text in a way. For me, I don't need to write down what I'm thinking. I much rather prefer to have that conversation in my head. When I do have to annotate however, I tend to question the text. I try to think of what the text is trying to convey.

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  23. For me, I always look for some words or sentences which can state the main idea of the article, and I also annotate some clues or some statistic numbers. I few summarize the paragraph in the margin, but i think i should do it in the future, because keeps separated paragraphs' meaning in my mind and helps to figure the whole passage idea out. I do talk back to the text. When i agree or disagree with author's opinions, i will write down my own thought and make a comment. It does help me engage in critical thinking. In addition to writing memory prompt marginalia, marking the places i am puzzling is what i usually do. Most of time, the places i am puzzling are the most important in the whole passage.

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  24. Any time I find myself reading I am constantly looking at possible alternatives for the events I read. For example, when I began to read Daniel Keyes’, “Flowers for Algernon,” it was apparent by the bad use of grammar and misspelling that the narrator of the story was someone who had some sort of academic deficiency, or mental disorder. This is most certain when the development of the story takes us through the protagonist’s (Charlie) journey from a mentally challenged man-boy to an outstanding genius as a result of a surgery performed on him. As I read page after page of the book, I constantly asked myself if it was possible that Charlie was showing us that the real mentally challenged people are not those who cannot spell or use “proper” syntax, but rather that the mentally challenged are those people who so obsessively try to act according to those conventions, whether social or grammatical, established by people with unquestioning devotion. Keyes, as a forward to his novel, includes a Greek philosopher’s allegory (probably Plato’s, I cannot recall) about a man coming from a well-lighted place into a dark room and not being able to see, not because it was dark—for our eyes can become accustomed to darkness—but because he came into darkness after being in too much light. My response to the novel was in the form of a question: is the suggestion really that Charlie only seemed mentally challenged because he entered a darkened world after having been in a brighter place? Are there mentally challenged people, or are they just folks whose intelligence makes them seem challenged? These were some of the questions I pose to texts.

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  25. I personally hate to annotate the text; I have never been a fan of rewriting what I just read or asking questions about the text while I read. Because once I have asked the question, three lines down the author answers it for me. But when I do annotate the text I usually ask the author questions or point out important information throughout the article or details I found interesting. My problem with reading with a pencil is that I do not “critical” read or over think the authors writing. Usually when I read I get so involved in the story or article and forget to actual analyze the writing piece.

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  26. Annotation is not my best friend because I feel like everytime I try to annotate I get stuck in the very beginning and I do not like to feel like I do not understand the text. Me personally I try to read between the lines way to much so I over think the easiest sentence. However I do have to admit that it does help me when I read with a pencil because if I do not read with a pencil I am missing out with the little details. Sometimes I feel like I annotate wrong because I seem to guess at times or I put my voice into the annotation. Growing as a writer I do see how annotation or reading with a pencil will help me with my rhetorical writing assignments and also just to understand an article.

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