Close Reading & OneNote: A Match Made in Heaven

I was introduced to Microsoft OneNote early on in this school year through an amazing technology integration cohort my district hosted. From that cohort, I learned how to use the wide range of apps we had available in district to influence student learning in a positive way. OneNote, however, was just too daunting to me. I’m usually pretty tech savvy, so I can’t exactly pinpoint why this is. I have a hunch it has to do with my lack of organizational skills in general, and the fact that OneNote is the epitome of order and organization. Here we are at the end of the school year, and just recently my students and I have jumped head first into using OneNote to organize class notes, provide feedback, and close-read high-quality texts together. I absolutely hate that we didn’t take this jump sooner!

For this post, I’d like to focus specifically on how perfectly OneNote can support students in the process of reading carefully and purposefully. Close reading is a crucial component to Common Core reading standards. To be honest, the concept of close reading is not something I intentionally thought about until I began learning about the new standards and implementing them with my students. A common misconception that I’ve heard of close reading is that it is simply just re-reading a text. Although re-reading is often involved, close-reading is much more than that. When my students and I are close reading, we are using high-quality text that I bring into our classroom for a very specific purpose. Because of this, we have been known to work with a text over the course of several days, and the level of engagement my students have when (with the help of close reading strategies) they begin to peel away the layers of a text and discover information much deeper than surface level, is astounding.

Most recently, we’ve been using news articles that discuss the current events in both our nation and from around the world. Often, these texts are filled with content-specific vocabulary and written in a style much different than the texts my students read independently. We work purposefully with these articles to ensure a high-level of comprehension when reading them. Articles such as the one pictured below (an actual screengrab of one of my student’s OneNote notebook pages) about recent events in Baltimore, provided a helpful jumping off point into discussions my students and I had about racial tension and humanity.

My students are still in the early stages of learning how to annotate a text in a way that supports their comprehension. OneNote is the vehicle with which I model how I read closely and annotate along the way. Our routine is quite simple:

  • I add an article to our shared content space in our “Mrs. Perry 2015” OneNote notebook.
  • My students access the article, and copy and paste it into their own personal workspace.
  • Together (or independently, depending on the assignment), we read the text for a specific purpose (identifying bias, determining unknown vocabulary, identifying questions that arise during reading) and annotate directly on the OneNote page.
  • I then go back to my students’ pages (I have access to these, but they do not have access to each others’) and provide feedback and check for understanding.

The pros of using OneNote in the classroom are endless, but I do have to say that my favorite aspect is the fact that I can give my students real-time individualized feedback on their work. Furthermore, their thoughts and efforts are automatically archived and easily recalled at a later time. This is more than I can say for copies of articles that have wound up in their desks!

Have you used OneNote in the classroom before? Is this a program that could be used in a setting that isn’t 1:1 as my classroom is? Let me know in the comments below!