Reading Apprenticeship Inspired Assignment or Lesson

Jennifer Garner, General Microbiology, Collaborative Annotation with Sentence Stems


The purpose of the activity is for students to read a case study to apply course content by using sentence stems to post annotations in a collaborative platform.


Students are expected to have read the chapters in the unit and/or participated in recorded or live lectures.  A case study activity is available for student participation through the time scheduled for the unit.  Students use the case study to practice application of chapter topics to a real-world situation. Students annotate a case study for each unit, thereby improving their ability to identify important ideas in the case study and explain chapter topics to peers as they progress through the semester.


Student annotations will be scored for the following criteria:

  • Relevance of comments/questions to case study scenarios
  • Relating chapter topics to case study scenarios
  • Interaction with classmate comments/questions

Metacognitive Conversations

Sentence stems shift the focus from the task of composing an annotation to thinking about the content students are learning.

Collaborative annotation encourages students to build on each other’s ideas and increase the depth of academic conversations.

Sentence stems provide a starting point for task initiation.


To engage students in critical analysis and discovery in chapter-related real-world scenarios, students read the case study article in the Perusall social e-reader.  Students interact asynchronously with classmates by reading and responding to annotations dispersed throughout the assigned article.

Students use sentence stems to keep contributions focused on microbiology topics rather than opinion or anecdotes. Students annotate by adding notes to the text giving explanation or comment, asking a question to seek clarification or to stimulate curiosity about a topic, answer questions posed by classmates, and/or sharing ideas triggered by chapter topics.  The purpose is to stimulate learning from the reading assignment in a collaborative activity because when students work together, ideas from one person can stimulate understanding in others.

Sentence stems focus annotations on topics that relate to the chapters in the unit.  Students are encouraged to use the sentence stems to avoid getting side-tracked on tangent topics that are beyond the scope of the course.

Example Instructions for using sentence stems in the collaborative annotation activity:

Remember that, in addition to the number and quality of your annotations, you also earn credit for collaborative interactions. Return frequently to the assignment to actively read and respond to classmate comments and questions.

As you read these text sections, stop to annotate when you notice topics that relate to the chapters in the current unit. Here are some examples of things you might note and some sentence frames to begin your annotations that you could use:

  • a connection to chapter topics - "I read something in the chapter that...", "Something I remember from the lecture is...", "I wrote in my notes..."
  • a question you might have - "A question I have about the microbiology is...", "This might mean...?"
  • an analogy or something you can visualize - "I imagine this as...", What I see when I read this is..."
  • a summary of what you just read - "So what this is saying is...", "I think the main idea here is..."
  • a part that helped you connect to something you already know about from this class or a previous science class - "This is like....", " This reminds me of..."
  • a part you are confused about or can't visualize - "I get confused when...", "I have a hard time visualizing..."

After you post about the prompts above, consider some of the other responses. Connect with another person's thinking by responding to their post. Feel free to use these sentence frames...

  • I connected to what you wrote about...
  • I hear you saying...
  • I appreciate... about what you wrote because...
  • The inquiry about... leads me to wondering...
  • Your questions/comments connected to something that I read/watched/saw/heard the instructor explain... (links, etc...)

Text and Materials

Case studies are selected to show microbiology topics as they relate to human concerns.  Case studies usually have a clinical or ecological focus presented in scientific review articles that are more accessible for general education students. Case studies are preferably based on actual occurrences or research data rather than a contrived scenario designed to "fit" the course topics. 

Collaborative annotation is conducted in Perusall (Links to an external site.) which is described as a “social e-reader”.  It is a free, online annotation tool with an algorithm for customizable auto-grading. Perusall is integrated into the Canvas LMS, so students are not required to create an account.