The first time you read the short stories for this class, you will be doing what is considered passive reading—reading the story with an open mind. Perhaps you will flag things that stood out to you, or that raised questions. You may jot down unfamiliar words to look up later. Mainly, though, you read to locate main ideas that help you follow the story. 

One way a reader stays connected to the main idea of the story is through keywords. Authors will purposefully use and repeat keywords throughout their writing to emphasize an important idea or concept. Repetition of a keyword may also occur through use of synonyms, such as using “sightless” or “loss of vision” as synonymous with “blind.” 

Annotating keywords can help us understand the literary elements of a short story, such as plot, character, setting, diction, or theme. You were introduced to these literary terms in Week 1.

For this homework assignment, you will reread and annotate the story “Recitatif.” You will locate keywords that signal the literary elements of the short story. You should read closely and carefully, noting words or synonyms that repeatedly draw your attention to the literary elements of theme, plot, character, and setting. In a printed book, you may underline or highlight them. You may also write notes to yourself in the margins. In a PDF, you may be using the markup tools or comment features.

There is no exact, “right way” of annotating a particular story; like the writing process, the close reading process is yours to individualize.  If you prefer to print out the story on paper, annotate it by hand, and then upload a picture or scan of the paper, that submission would be perfectly fine as well.

In short, by reading the story more than once and annotating it, you are engaging in active reading, which will improve your experience as a reader. You will comprehend more, remember more, react more, and possibly visualize more. The reason to annotate is to become an active reader. 


1. Identify three of the following literary elements in the story, and explain how you recognize them:

2. Choose just one of the literary elements that you discussed in Question 1 and list 10 keywords in the story that relate to that element. 

3. Annotate at least one section of the story that elucidates the literary element.