Reading Response Exercise #9—Practice a Reading Strategy

This week’s reading activity is more an exercise than a question, and you will need to read the full prompt before you do your reading for the exercise.

For this exercise, you need the book you are reading, a pen or pencil, and (if you don’t want to/or can’t write in your book) some small sticky notes. You may even want an index card or piece of paper on which to write down the code.

Code? you say.

Yes, this exercise involves the coded recording of margin notes as you read.

You can create your own code if you want, but here’s the code I like to use (If you create your own code, remember each symbol should be simple to make and easy to remember):

  • * (a star): this indicates that what I am reading is important for me to remember.
  • ! (an exclamation point): this means “Wow!” and is used for things that either are really interesting or exciting.
  • ? (question mark): I use this to show where I don’t quite understand what the author is saying. I can go back to it later and figure it out if further reading didn’t clarify it for me.
  • :) (a smiley face): This means I like what I read or I think it’s funny.
  • :( (a sad face): I use this for things that are troubling or sad.
  • // (two parallel lines): I use this symbol alongside passages that remind me of something I can relate to in my own life.
  • (a triangle): I borrowed this symbol from math and science to use in passages where it seems some change is taking place.
  • (an eyeball): My students enjoyed using this to point out things they have observed in the text.

As you read, either write in pencil in your book or write on sticky notes to attach these notes in the margin alongside the passages that inspire them.

For example:

  • Diddle, diddle dumpling,        :) I love the way these words bounce
  • My son John,
  • Went to bed
  • With his stockings on.              ? Why?
  • One shoe off,
  • One shoe on…
  • Diddle, diddle dumpling,
  • My son John.                             // reminds me of when my one-year-old daughter fell asleep with her face in her plate!

Using margin notes is a great strategy for nonfiction and assigned readings. It helps you to stay focussed, to relate to the text, and to highlight and remember what seems important in the text.

I use margin notes most often when reading my critique group friends’ manuscripts, and when reading informative articles relating to writing and other areas in which I’m interested. I have found the practice to improve my interaction with and comprehension of the text.

I hope it can prove both fun and useful for you!