Reflections on the Annotation Comrades assignment

This assignment was so challenging and quite a risk because I knew Creative Writing professors have never used online annotation as a tool for their courses.  I truly understood that some of my ideas with the annotation comrades lesson plan could be taken as outlandish and unusual.  As someone who has taken English Literature and Creative Writing classes at San Francisco State University for 3 years now, it was a worthy chance to be able to make online annotation a great useful assignment just because there are options to make the activity interactive.  When I mean interactive, I look at the authentic way in which students look at a piece of poem/short story/monologue/excerpts from a novel contextually and practice more close reading to this assignment (I was reading an article in the Writer’s Chronicle on the Midrash method in Jewish culture when I was thinking about that).  However, after reading my peer’s feedback on this assignment (and talking at great lengths with my Creative Writing Professor), hearing and reading the feedback was beneficial.  For example, my comrade made note of “students need guidance- they might need to be told what to do and how to do it” (annotation comrades).  My Creative Writing professor said almost the exact same thing where I truly need to look at where I could direct them towards metaphor.  This is where my article from Hastac was one of those moments that happened for a reason (the article is called “Using Collaborative Annotation to develop Creative Writing Prompts”) What I meant by that is reading the article on annotation ideas for students in a creative writing course and make this experience (especially for creative writing) relatively engaging in this lecture.  I believe if I stuck with my plan here in the final (which I posted weeks ago), some of the key points would be lost in the lecture and my whole presentation could be dry.  This is where I found feedback from two people especially helpful in this sense and where I can revise this as I get closer to my presentation date on December 10th (to be exact).

One thing I really enjoyed reading my from peers’ thoughts on the assignment was the research aspect.  That is something I truly value when it comes to creative writing and English literature course because I don’t think you can get a great sense of what the author’s voice based on just one poem or one novel.  My whole understanding is that the students should get that chance to do outside research of the author so that they have an in-depth profile of the poet/novelist.  That way you can separate yourself from the speaker vs the author.  For example, my comrade pointed out that “As student’s carry out the rest of this assignment, the research requirement serves as a tool for concise and thoughtful annotations” (Annotation comrades).  This is where feedback is so beneficial for writers and students of literature because the person gets constructive information to work from.  Feedback should be a chance for students to learn about the process and not be stressed over reading these comments from several people.  In addition to that, I felt my comrade was very creative with the writing assignment portion here just because how many images and metaphors are embedded in the poem.  For example, the speaker said this on one of the lines, “loneliness is lying awake at night, trying to fetch snores” (annotation comrades).  To me, this is a strong line just because the purpose of this exercise was a stream of consciousness and the result was these two metaphors.  I think if the students really use this method in the exercise, it will be very exciting to hear what they produce writing wise and how it is an imitation of Billy Collins’s poetry.

Overall, I felt very optimistic about my assignment (after reading the feedback from my comrade and agreeing with Creative Writing professor on switching the direction for the lecture) because I think this assignment will turn into an engaging lecture.  One of my Creative Writing professors once said: “Perfection is for sick people.”  Likewise, it would be very counterintuitive to expect perfection on this assignment (after conducting two drafts of the plan) and there is always room to grow here.  After all, that’s why we are in graduate school because we have amazing peers to work within the department and it sets us up to succeed once we become English Literature professors.  If all my graduate classes were like this, I truly think the students would find comfort in knowing there is unity in creative writing and English Literature.  I really look forward to shaping this lecture and taking note of other articles we read in class to use as resources for it as well.

Reading Room #8- Using collaborative annotation to develop creative writing prompts

Journal: Hastac

All of this talk of online annotation has gotten me to reflect upon our previous discussions in class on different formats.  I continue to look back at the methods set forth between Genius and Slate; these different methods to authentically use online annotation had set me up for my annotation comrades assignment.  However, this article, from the journal Hastac titled “Using collaborative annotation to develop creative writing prompts” by Rachel Shields, was something I found by accident.  I was talking one on one with my Creative Writing professor, that I am a graduate instructional assistant for, and she really made me really find ways to give direction to the students.  In other words, it was a challenge for her to wrap her head around teaching online annotation to 100 students (who have different majors other than creative writing and english literature) in a lecture hall.  In this article, Sheilds reiterates that many of her students in her short story class found it so hard to come up with creative writing projects.  This is where Shields came to the conclusion that working together as a class with online annotation suited better for the students.

Within the time frame of the course, each group would have 20 students and strongly read (and reread) unique texts for the group they are in.  Some of the stories included: Virginia Woolf’s “Blue & Green”, Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill”, and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (selections).  With these texts in mind, the students would post the versions of the story on google docs, look for the correct group they are in, and come up with 3-4 annotations (similar to the ones from the big class group,  and look at a craft strategy that suits you well as a writer.  On their own, they would read the annotations they have seen their peers reply to within the exact story.  However, going back into groups, the students would relatively look at a craft strategy they need fine tuning with as a writer.

Using “Backwards Design” as a model, Shields states, ” Include at least one suggestion for content generation (ex: “go to a café and observe how people drink coffee, then put a description of coffee drinking somewhere in your piece” or “read the comments section of a NY Times article and incorporate two sentences from commenters into the dialog you are writing”)” (Shields).  Rachel Shields has goals with this assignment and that is useful for the students.

I found this article by accident and relatable to my lecture in my creative writing course because of how much of this I want to use for the course.  What better way to come up with new ideas on annotation?

Annotation Comrades: Final

Hello comrades,  I am going to be using some of the methods implemented in Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s chapter “What is Backwards Design.” I use their methods as a launching pad for the annotation partner assignment in this class.  To believe in one’s writing as a career path, the student writer would need to be a student of this poet’s work (I will explain more on that in further detail in the planning stage). However, from a literary point of view, these annotations will ensure the critical thinking juices are in full effect for the students.   I will expand on my goals (which specific craft elements are crucial in order to be successful with this assignment), the evidence (in this case what sort of annotations will help them think about craft), and finally planning (what will be required from the students to complete this assignment).  This course section is completely coming from a creative writing point of view, but at the same time, they will analyze the poem and be able to read poetry like a writer.

But first, a little background on Billy Collins.  Billy Collins was born in New York City on March 22, 1941.  His poetry has been featured in the Pushcart Prize anthology and was picked on many occasions for the best American Poetry Series.  The poet Stephen Dunn once said this of Collins, ” We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals.”  This rings true with Billy Collins’ work and can be said when you read his poem for this assignment.


My goal here for this assignment with my partner (and for the students I assign this poem to) is to identify Metaphor as a necessary craft element.  In the book How to Read Poetry like a Professor, author Thomas C. Foster says this about metaphor, “Metaphors worm their way into our consciousness so that their first, overt meaning gets lost” (Foster).  Metaphors should be used as something the students question in the poem.  Of course, the students will be very confused with the metaphors in this poem.  But the purpose is to read the poem several times and make meaningful annotations relating to metaphor.  Metaphors are conscious deeply inside our soul.  The students truly need to understand how a metaphor is effective in a poem because they could get lost very easily.  Some writers (poets) have frequently placed metaphors in the poem.  In short, it is crucial to grasp the concepts with metaphors and understand how they are properly used.  This assignment is designed for entry-level composition or creative writing students in mind.   From a creative standpoint, critically pinpointing metaphors ensures they have the linchpin engrained in their minds.  Remember, the students (and my annotation comrade) needs to read this poem as a writer and study this piece diligently.


Evidence/Desired results:

Some of the evidence for this assignment will be based on completing this annotation assignment one week before we discuss the poem in class. This includes creating an account for the Hypothesis module on the blog and dissect the poem with your fellow classmates.  What am I looking for in their annotations?  Their annotations should be open to interpretations (remember poetry is very subjective in taste) but at the same time, I expect them to respond to craft.  The student needs to be centered on craft in order to be successful with this assignment and deviating from the main idea of this assignment hurts their learning outcome within the larger group during lecture. In particular, they really to be centered in metaphor in order to effectively participate in this assignment (going back to the previous stage here).  For example, a great annotation could be in response to why this line in Billy Collins “Snow Day” reflects effective uses of metaphor.    In order to have meaningful annotations on the craft elements, I expect the students to proofread their responses and implement proper use of grammar.  These annotations on Hypothesis should be formal but very subjective in their approach to craft strategies.  The annotations are designed to revolve around on how a metaphor works and how it challenges the reader throughout the process.  That is one of my keys to success in this assignment.  The second desired key to success is by researching other poems written by Billy Collins (which I will post the link on the blog).  The students should have a historical background and include a breadth of knowledge of his work.  Failure to do outside research Billy Collins will result in confusion on connections being used throughout the lecture and not following directions.  Therefore the research will have a performative evaluation as well.  All of the background information and annotations will affect student engagement because they depend on the outcome of the lecture.  These annotations are designed for metaphor as the element of craft.  Metaphors can be easily missed in a poem and I hope students look towards using these annotations effectively.

Planning: Hypothesis and an in-class writing exercise

The requirements for this assignment is very straightforward, but failure to follow the directions posted on the blog will lead to less student engagement during lecture. You cannot learn inside the classroom if you do not go through the motions throughout this course.  The students will need their laptop and be able to create their own account in Hypothesis.  I will provide the directions to properly create annotations via links from Youtube on the blog.  If any of the students feel they are confused or lost on Hypothesis, I will suggest they email me their questions or meet with me in my office hours.  I want all of the students to be able to work on this together and not leave anyone in the dust.  Lastly, the students will be required to have their writing journals for the end of this assignment.  All of the students will be required to participate in an exercise after we annotate and discuss the poem.

As I have mentioned before, I chose Billy Collins’s poem “Snow Day” because it reflects a massive amount of metaphors.  A poet will either have several metaphors in the poem or have only a select few.  In fact, some poets might even stack metaphors together.  For instance, William Shakespeare had stacked a bunch of metaphors in Sonnet 73, “In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire/That on the ashes of his youth does lie” (Shakespeare).  Examples like this one shows how easy it is to miss metaphors.  That is why understanding the germinal ideas of a metaphor is so crucial for this assignment.  This poem injects so many useful examples of metaphor as a useful literary tool and in turn, will help students when they write their annotations.  It is the student’s responsibility to critically think about the metaphors in this poem and diligently analyze the poem with metaphor in mind.

The students will be reading the poem online a week before class.  The first time they read it will be solely on pleasure. Just enjoy each line and do not think too much on literary analysis.  The second time, Be in tune with the language and craft elements as you read the poem.  Jot down your original thoughts as a sounding board leading up to this assignment.  The third time, the students will be looking for metaphors to note in their annotation.  With that entails is how those metaphors are working craft-wise.  The fourth time, they will read it and identify metaphors that pop of the page in the poem. If they may do so, they could pick out the best metaphors (all subjective of course) and how they possess this sense of power.  I will pose these questions (if they get stuck):

  1. Which metaphors in this poem are useful?
  2. Did the poet provide powerful examples of metaphor?
  3. Which metaphors were the most challenging?

These questions are designed so that they can formulate good annotations.  A metaphor is supposed to challenge the students from a literary standpoint.  But at the same time, I do not want cram all of these ideas in a student’s head.  A student is supposed to be challenged in the most creative and productive way.

The students will then reconvene for class and we will all be discussing the poem line by line.  From there, I will call on students and get their responses from the annotations.

After we finish discussing this poem, I will begin my writing exercise.  The students will then close their eyes and imagine as many metaphors as they can.  They will control their breathing and be mindful of their thought process.  This exercise is supposed to be basic because all of these students are in an introductory course.  When they have finished, they will open their eyes and list all of the metaphors in the form of a poem.  This process will be part of the individual activity portion because the students will be working independently on their writing exercise and are required to turn in a typed version of the exercise. A real and authentic method of recording their writing in the journals is to not think too much about the writing.  The students must write and let it come from the heart.  However, I grade and evaluate this writing exercise based on following the directions and keeping those elements of craft in mind when the students write their poems.