So often I think we as teachers are quick to skip past the cover art of a new book. We’re usually so excited to get into the story with our students that we just dive right in. Unfortunately, by doing that we’re missing an amazing opportunity to allow students to interact with the text before we even begin reading!
The cover art for picture books and novels are usually filled with such intricate details that by taking the time to study it, our students can gain some background knowledge or an understanding of what might be happening in the book.
One of my favorite strategies to use when I was a reading specialist was cover annotations. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Students would take some time looking at the cover to a book we were about to begin and annotate their noticings and wonderings.
For struggling readers, analyzing the cover allows them time to get their thoughts ready for their new book. They are able to write down any questions that may arise while doing this. Oftentimes, they would see a small detail on the cover and they would create a beautiful question from it. This also also reinforces the strategies of making predictions and drawing inferences. Students are usually so excited to try to guess what they think the book will be about, and this activity provides collaboration and discussion to share their ideas with peers. After completing a cover annotation, students then feel more prepared and excited to tackle a new book, even if they were feel nervous before!
Even for non-struggling students, cover annotations provide many opportunities. In addition to everything I already talked about, they could also focus on other things they might find on a cover: title, reviews of the book, and any other words that may appear. One of my favorite things to ask students is to read the title and think about why they think the author may have chosen it for the book. They usually are confused for the first minute or so, but after that their imagination of what the story could be comes into play. Before you know it, these students are making precise and intricate predictions just based off of the title!
How else can I use cover annotations?
- During an informational writing piece or research project, give students pictures of the topic they are learning. They can use the same strategies to look for details and information in the pictures to help gain a new understanding on the topic.
- In science and social studies, when introducing a new topic, share some different pictures that relate to the new topic. Place students in groups and allow them to museum walk around to all the pictures. As they look through the pictures, have them jot down thoughts, noticings, wonderings, all with the purpose of trying to uncover what the new topic will be that they’re learning about.
- If your someone that utilizes book clubs in your classroom, this would be a great way to allow students to interact with a new novel to help them select which book to read for their book club. I usually show students about 10 different books and then let them explore the covers and ask questions before making their decision.