Teaching (Through) Literary Annotation with TEASys

A further aim of this project is to reflect on both annotating and explanatory annotation as teaching and learning tools. From the perspective of readers, this includes a better understanding of a text; teachers may use this digital heuristic tool to further text understanding (either by annotating text(s) themselves / in collaboration with students or by using extant annotations); researchers can find out more about the learning effect of annotations in an enhanced reading environment and as an activity.

TEASys has been developed as a best practice model of annotation in literary studies which encourages (student) annotators to engage with a text and structure the information they provide in the annotations in a comprehensible, reader-friendly manner. In our seminars, students use the annotations from previous seminars: they also write own annotations on their own rather than just rely on the annotations they find in extant (mostly print) editions. Our work with annotations is based on the reflection of what students do not understand or what exactly it is that causes difficulties in understanding. In a next step, we discuss their questions and the text to then conduct research that contributes to solving these problems of understanding.

The categories and levels of information prescribed by TEASys supports a structured approach to any text: students will have to think about the way in which they want to organise their knowledge and group the information they want to provide according to its content and complexity. For this, they rely on the Living Styleguide. Annotations are written collaboratively, which enhances an active exchange of ideas among the peers and encourages them to reflect on different research methods and aspects of scholarly work.

The structuring of annotations in levels and categories can also help teachers identify problems in understanding (e.g. that students comprehend the vocabulary of a passage but lack the cultural background that was necessary to gain a deeper understanding). TEASys may also be used in teaching to internally differentiate information (both with regard to the categories and the levels) in accordance with students’ competency.

The use of TEASys as a teaching tool altogether raises the awareness for different aspects of close reading and academic writing, and makes visible the processes that are at play when students understand and analyse literature. Furthermore, the prospect of having their work published on our website may increase students’ motivation to self-reliantly work with texts that are usually considered difficult.

For further information see the poster we presented at the DHD 2018 (in German).

The Benefits of Annotating as a Teaching Tool at a Glance

When writing their own annotations students practice and acquire a wealth of (academic) skills such as:

  • close reading
  • recognising what makes a text difficult to understand
  • developing methods for overcoming these difficulties of understanding
  • critically evaluating existing annotations and secondary literature
  • getting to know different research methods
  • acquiring information about specific literary, historical or cultural topics
  • reflecting on the relevance of the information they have found for a certain topic
  • structuring and conveying information in an accessible way, academic writing skills
  • giving well-founded and helpful peer feedback
  • practicing citation rules

Seminars Taught Using TEASys:

  • WiSe 2014/15: “Digital Humanities: Reading and Annotating First World War Poetry” (Angelika Zirker, Tübingen)
  • WiSe 2015/16: “Annotating Literature: Close and Distant Reading” (Matthias Bauer/Angelika Zirker, Tübingen)
  • WiSe 2016/17: “Annotating Literature: Shakespeare’s Sonnets” (Matthias Bauer/Angelika Zirker, Tübingen)
  • SoSe 2017: “Annotating Metaphysical Poetry” (Matthias Bauer, Tübingen)
  • WiSe 2017/18: “Annotating Metaphysical Poetry” (Angelika Zirker, HU Berlin)
  • SoSe 2018: “Learning to Read Shakespeare” (Leonie Kirchhoff, Tübingen)
  • SoSe 2018: “Digital Methods in Literary Studies” (Angelika Zirker, HU Berlin)