Content Literacy 101

Marginalia (from "A Handbook of Content Literacy Strategies")

Marginalia, or "X Marks the Spot," is simply a coding system for students to use as they are reading. It gives them three concrete things to look for, as well as provides them with a physical notation to connect what they are reading to what they are thinking. 

Why use it?
"X Marks the Spot" is a great introductory strategy for metacognition. A struggling student might know what they have a question, but they might not know how to phrase it. This tool gives them the opportunity to mark their confusion in the text without having to disrupt their reading by writing it out. The code helps them "identify significant information, new information, and information that is unclear" as they are reading, so they are processing this key information before they even finish reading. 

How do I use it? 
The code has three parts:
  • X means "I've found a key point."
  • ! means "I've found some interesting, new information."
  • ? means "This is confusing; I have a question about what this means." 

The teacher should model this tool on a transparency so students understand how to use it properly.

Then, the teacher should specify the number of responses they are looking for (especially when they first introduce the strategy)
For example, "Mark 4 key points; 2 interesting, new facts; and 3 questions you have."

After the students have read and marked their text, their responses become the basis for a class discussion.

(Procedure and example both from: A Handbook of Content Literacy Strategies)