Jeremy Morris from Communication Arts shares how he utilized’s Web Annotator for valid understudy online explanation assignments.

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Jeremy’s Story

Jeremy’s Story

Jeremy’s GENIUS PROMPT: Using the technologies behind the annotation site Rap Genius (, this project requires students to annotate a text of their choosing to make a critical commentary on it. As with Rap Genius’ analysis of lyrics, the annotations should provide extra information to the reader, build on the text and critically reflect on it. The annotations can be in the form of more text, links to other references or sources, images, animated gifs, etc. They can be about a specific word or term, or can summarize an entire sentence or paragraph, but they should explain the text and expand it. As with Rap Genius, the annotations can also be a mix of factual material, informed opinion, and playful commentary. That said, the annotations must also include mention of course concepts and keywords, and should make reference to at least two course texts at some point during the annotations. Use the course concepts and keywords as a way to think CRITICALLY about the documents. This project is graded not only on their ability to extend and clarify the text in the documents, but on their ability to challenge, question and reflect on the substance of the document in question using course material.


  • Students like this. There’s some cachet (and immediate understanding through examples) in using because of its roots with song lyrics, but internet commenting on a ‘hidden’ layer in general is appealing to students.
  • Annotating to understand is a time-tested and effective educational practice. Annotation can be used as dialog around a text, but there is also value in single-user annotating.
    • NY Times Learning blog article: Annotating to Engage, Analyze, Connect and Create
    •’s A Teacher’s Guide to Genius
    • Some lesson plans and examples of student work in
    •’ examples of classroom use
    •’ 10 Ways to Annotate with Students
    • Education World’s Annotating as an Assessment Tool
    • Jordan Catapano’s How Annotation Reshapes Student Reading
  • Design assignments for public consumption. Discuss safe practices.
  • Annotations can include text, images, audio, video, and links — and can be filtered/sorted by commenter.
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