Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Annotating A Wrinkle in Time

You might remember me mentioning that I am reading aloud A Wrinkle in Time (well, actually Madeline L'Engle is, through the magic of audio books...) and that we participated in the 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs blog tour for the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book.

Inspired by Monica Edinger's blog posts about annotating Charlotte's Web with her fourth graders, and fueled with a "worst they can do is say no" attitude, I asked the promoter of the blog tour if it would be possible to get a class set of A Wrinkle in Time so that my class could try annotating the book as we listened to it.

She (and Macmillan) said yes. When the books came, I had my copy from my 6th grade Scholastic book order on hand. I had already told them that A Wrinkle in Time had been a landmark book for me as a reader. Now they looked at my scuffed copy as they held their shiny new copies. I told them that I had kept that book for almost 40 years, and that they, too, might keep the book in their hands for 40 or more years. Someday when they were all grown up, they might tell their children (or even their students) about the difference that book had made in their lives. Ten year-olds can't usually imagine 40 years into the future, but I think a few of them had a glimmer of it for just a second there.

What kinds of things have we been noticing as we annotate and discuss the book?

  • Words. Rich, rich vocabulary. And often words that relate to our word study focus, coming to life right there in the book!
  • Connections. A geranium blooming on the windowsill of mother's lab -- just like the one in our classroom!
  • Places in the story where Madeline L'Engle changed the mood of the story, or made us ask questions, or where we wrote, "Uh oh..."
  • Symbolism -- dark is evil, light is good; evil is cold, good is warm.
  • Who else has fought against the "shadow" on our planet? Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Abe Lincoln, all the people who stop wars...
  • Madeline L'Engle's use of similes, metaphors and idioms.
  • The importance of freedom and individualism, family and friendship, love and trust.

Yesterday we watched the Wonderopolis episode on time travel. It was fun to wonder if time travel will be possible in their lifetimes, or if they might someday be part of a team of scientists who bring us closer to that reality.

We're not quite finished with the book. We have about 20 pages left, and I think I'm going to ask them to finish the book and annotate the last few chapters on their own over spring break. Then, when we come back together week after next, we can have the kind of discussion that Monica's classes have.

We're not quite finished with the book...I'm thinking about that phrase...and I'm realizing that my students will NEVER be quite finished with this book. Some of them, anyway. This will be a book that keeps sounding and resounding in their lives as they grow up with it, grow into it, grow away from it, and hopefully come back to it. This is a book that has potential to leave a never-ending ripple in their thinking and in their reading lives. It doesn't seem like enough to simply say Thank You to Macmillan for providing these books for my class. What I'm really thanking them for is helping me to change the lives of 24 children.


  1. I love that book! A new favorite of mine is "When You Reach Me" which picks up on some of the same themes as Wrinkle and even references it throughout. It would be a great follow for some interested kids to try! Have fun!

  2. Mary Lee, I just re-read the book earlier this year & reviewed it. What a marvelous gift you've given your students (via MacMillan). I was already grown when it came out, so discovered it as an adult, and still loved it. I hope also that they learn to follow the rest of the adventures L'Engle set out so vividly. It's a wonderful book.

  3. If your kids want more, try When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Great time travel, mystery-type book with Wrinkle references aplenty. I used it as read aloud and my kids loved it!

    What format are you using for annotating? Workshop? Whole class? Small group? Just curious.... Your class is making some wonderful conclusions and connections and I'd love to know how you supported them into doing that.

    1. Jennifer, as we listen to the audio of Madeline L'Engle reading the book aloud, we circle words, underline phrases, and make marginal notes. I stop the recording every now and then so we can discuss, ask questions, make predictions, etc.

  4. Anonymous2:17 PM

    If this isn't a great example of "close reading" than I don't know what is!


Comment moderation is turned on.