From Electric English...
This is a biography for Washington Irving, but most importantly, it is an exercise to continue practice with annotation. AAHhhhh the dreaded annotations!!! I have to say that in my experience truly showing a kid how to process information - pull out what is relevant, what is not; think about new knowledge in terms of what they already know, and what they don't; begin to understand language, and why writers craft their words the way they do; reflect on what is effective, and what is not - all of these are life skills, not just classroom skills. And this my friends is essentially what annotating a text (any text) does!! The kids may hate it; the kids may complain, but by the end of the year, they will not hate it or complain. I know this from experience. These skills they will use in their other classes and in life; they will appreciate that. Pushing your students to move beyond linear thinking will reap you so many other rewards in terms of their other work and their contributions to your classroom. In this sense, I must say that teaching how to annotate is so much better than assigning dialectical journals or other such... Can you tell I am a fan of annotation? LOL Anyway, I'll get off of my soapbox now, but seriously, this is a great way to give the students information about the life of Washington Irving and have them improve themselves in the process :) I have posted notes on how to annotate; they are on my site under Notes: Annotating a Text.
There are also questions that accompany this biography. These are higher level thinking questions; instead of, being simply regurgitative in nature.