As a teacher, I'm being evaluated and I'm looking for a short but challenging text for students to practice close reading skills. I'm trying to do a brief 5–8 minute collaborative activity with...

As a teacher, I'm being evaluated and I'm looking for a short but challenging text for students to practice close reading skills. I'm trying to do a brief 5–8 minute collaborative activity with students to work in pairs and practice annotating text. Can't find anything that an administrator would like to see, but won't be too difficult for high school students to work on together. Help!

Expert Answers
rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several texts that spring to mind, but I'm wondering about grade level, what you mean by "annotate," or what your administrators would consider appropriate. I'm assuming that you want the whole thing, reading and annotation, to take 5-8 minutes, so you're looking for something quite short, a page or even a paragraph or two, and I'm assuming that by "annotate" you mean basic skills like "circle the parts you don't understand" or "underline the words that convey the feeling of sadness," etc.

There is "The Colonel" by Carolyn Forche, which is a powerful piece that also is great for teaching tone and the use of telling detail (there is one expletive). Also good is Bob Hass's "A Story About the Body" which poses an interesting question about bodies and sexuality and ends with an amazing image that will provoke discussion. Both of these I've used in my 12th grade classroom, and both have an edge that kids like -- they are short and challenging. Another place I go for things like this is the Letters of Note website. Personal letters can be quirky and fun to read--and sometimes heartbreaking. One I like to do that's on the site is Amelia Earheart's letter to her fiance, which is the most reluctant acceptance of a marriage proposal ever. The letter raises all sorts of questions about Earheart, her relationship with her fiance, and her sense of how her professional aspirations were in conflict with what she thought men expected of her. There are a million great things on that site.

If the reading part can be a little longer, you might consider one of the shorter Bradbury stories (popular on eNotes is "All Summer in a Day") or Grace Stone Coates's "Wild Plums," both stories about kids and growing up. Those are also good read-aloud stories, so perhaps the annotating and reading aloud could go together. Those stories are good for almost any high school grade level. 

Another thing you could consider is (if you are bold) having them annotate each other's writing. Give them a prompt, tell them to be as concrete and detailed as possible, and let them free write for a while, then switch papers and annotate. 

Good luck!

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's too bad. You might take a look at some of the informational text exemplars states have listed as part of Common Core: Oregon has a long list for grade 10, including things like King's "I Have a Dream" speech or the somewhat longer "Letter from Birmingham Jail."