A shared reading

207418193_dafffdc266 After reading Will's post the other day, I realized my students could "read" a poem together and annotate in diigo. We created a private ninth-grade group in diigo this year to explore sharing of bookmarks. I hadn't yet realized the value in annotating with comments.
So yesterday, we opened up "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks, and I asked the students to write some of their thoughts.
One problem surfaced right away: if they highlight and comment on the same line, all the comments aren't immediately visible. If you refresh the page, however, different comments appear.
Today, I saw that I could extract all the annotations from the diigo toolbar, and this is what they did (I have removed their names since I didn't ask if I could publish this. However, for teachers, this tool is so valuable as the students' diigo user names are listed after each comment.) Notice how they often respond to each other and answer each other's questions:


FA-English9 – We Real Cool

    * We Lurk late
    * We Sing sin.
          o It's kind of a sobering statement about what our definition of “cool” really is.
          o I definitely agree with that, I mean it's likely you're going to define "cool" differently than the person next you you. Also, some people dont have a conscious of their sins, it's an interesting line, a lot can be interpruted from this.
    * We Thin gin
          o So many young people are exposed to alchol because of parents and peers.
    * We Thin gin.
          o Does anyone know what "thin gin" means. It might sound silly but i really have no idea
          o It means to like, add water to gin to distill it.
          o I think it means that they thin bottles of gin like drink a lot
    * Jazz June
          o what does this mean?
          o What does this mean?
          o I think it means like cause a comotion, like Jazz it up!
          o i think it means kinda like we're done with this… like i guess like we are done with this life and then because they give up they die but thats only what i think
    * We Die soon.
          o I like that she put this as the last line. As teenagers, and young people we sometimes don't see that life goes by so fast and often we take advantage of life.
          o Yeah exactly, it's like none of us ever think anything bad can happen to us. If we do something we know is wrong, we don't think about the consequences. We think we'll live forever.
          o I agree. It's something nobody really wants to think about. I barely do unless someone i know dies and i have a moment of reflection about the fragility of life, but it's just a thought. It's unpleasant, so i push it away. c
          o I dont think that we not only as teenagers see that we not just take advantage of life but i dont think that we ever seen dealth in the near future of our life
    * We Die soon.
          o This line to me brings the peom together. She ended it like this i think because we live life and it goes by so fast and dealth can creep up on you and no one and not even yourself would see it coming
          o I totally agree. I think that it is such an interesting way to end the poem. This line is the last in the poem, and it really brings the full impact of the poem to the reader
    * We Die soon.
          o this was a strong line i thought because as the poem progresses it seems that all of those bad things were leading up to this horrible thing. THis was the line where i understood what the whole poem was about.
    * We Die soon.
          o This is SUPER POWERFUL! it's even more powerful how she says, we, instead of just talking about one person. I'm guessing she means that a lot of people can be affected by the bad things.
          o It's scary to think about how some of the people we know now could 'die soon.' Are we still afraid of death? Or is it just an unthinkable consequence to our actions.
    * by Gwendolyn Brooks 1950
          o The fact that this was written in 1950 is really crazy. It shows how society really haven't changed that much. People are still being rebellious today. When i first read this, i didn't see the date, and in my mind i was thinking about todays society.
          o I agree. Some issues are timeless
          o Good point, and it is even more true after seeing the video of the guy talking about his (very modern) experiences in life that line up almost completely parallel to this poem

I LOVE this activity. They have begun to see the value in the comments they receive on their blogs, and now they can share their immediate thoughts about a piece of writing through diigo annotations. This is a powerful activity. Richardson quotes Steve Johnson's article about digital reading in his piece:

As you read, you will know that at any given moment, a conversation is available about the paragraph or even sentence
you are reading. Nobody will read alone anymore. Reading books will go
from being a fundamentally private activity — a direct exchange between
author and reader — to a community event, with every isolated paragraph
the launching pad for a conversation with strangers around the world.

Yikes, my head is spinning with possibilities. First, what to do with this private diigo account. Should it be open? What are the ramifications of that?


  1. Wonderful wonderful stuff here. Between you and Will, I’ve got a ton of ideas for using Diigo next fall. As a student of poetry too, I’m fascinated by the way the shared comments amplify the reading moment, slowing it down and helping to plumb the depths of a short lyric that many times students will simply rush through. Splendid!

  2. Though some of my ninth-graders still resist using diigo (they say it’s too complicated), the poetry annotation was the tipping point for many others. Thanks for your thoughts, Gardner. I look forward to seeing your students’ work next fall!

  3. This is very exciting, Susan. I wonder if there is a year level which is ‘too young’ for Diigo annotations. I’m interested to see what you decide to do about opening it up or not. Will you have trouble opening up at your school?

  4. I’ve tried to set up Diigo activities for my students this semester. Your explorations are inspiring. And Gardner’s comments about “amplifying the reading moment” is nicely articulated. Great stuff!


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