Stop Highlighting... Start Thinking! - Ideas By Jivey: For the Classroom

Stop Highlighting... Start Thinking!

Remember when you were in high school and college, and as you studied, you highlighted everything you felt was important... then you got to the bottom of a page, looked back, and your entire page was highlighted?? Yeah... that's what we DON'T want students doing when they are reading. If we teach students to annotate, we can eliminate that highlighter bleeding! The idea of annotating is to slow down and really think about what the author is saying.

We know that close reading is the reading and rereading (and even more rereading) of a short complex text for several different purposes. Depending on the standards you are covering, you can use the same text for several readings and get something new out of it each time. During close reading, students should annotate the text to help leave tracks of their thinking as well as to help with their purpose for reading. How you have students annotate (the marks they will make) is totally up to you, but making sure their marks are purposeful is what is most important to teach them.

There are two times that students in my own classroom might annotate:

1) With a text-dependent question (or multiple questions on the same standard)... This will help provide a student a purpose for each reading. We don't want the margins to be full of random thoughts, but rather responses to their reading based on their purpose.

2) With a cold read... Students use an annotation bookmark at first to help remind them of the things they should be thinking about while reading, but they soon don't need it because they remember.
Annotation Tips with Ideas by Jivey
(You can get these bookmarks for free here!) 

My students annotate during and after reading one paragraph at a time. I teach them that if they get to the end of a paragraph and haven't written a single thought, most likely they weren't truly thinking while they were reading, and they should go back and reread one more time.

The best way to teach students how to think and annotate is to model it for them.
Annotation Tips with Ideas by Jivey
Here, I have modeled my own thinking for my students with a passage I wrote about epidemics (which you can download and use with your own class in this paired text freebie).

Annotation Tips with Ideas by Jivey
You can see that I showed my thinking, but it is not necessary to underline or write a thought about every single sentence, just like it's not necessary to highlight every sentence either!

It's also a great way to get students thinking before discussing an article with a partner. I have my students turn knee to knee and share what they thought was most important, what surprised them, and also share their questions with each other.
Annotation Tips with Ideas by Jivey

A lot of times, these conversations can help lead to new thinking for the students, which is exactly what we want from our readers!

Thanks so much for coming by... I hope that this post will help you get started with annotating in your own classroom! If you are interested in more paired texts, check them out here in my store! I am continuing to create them. :o)


  1. I love the annotations! It's a great way to engage the students in the reading, yet not too overwhelming! Thanks for sharing, dear heart! :)

  2. I finally gave up on highlighting last year when I started close reading with my 4th graders. Annotations are so much more meaningful! Thanks so much for this blog post and for detailing what works in your classroom. :)
    One Lucky Teacher

  3. Great blog post. I've recently found you (thanks, Instagram!) and love your ideas and products. Our district is big on text annotating this year and they want us to move away from the symbols, but with my 3rd graders, I still think they really need them! The bookmark will be put to good use. Thank you!

  4. Great post, Jivey! I agree about the highlighters too.
    Thanks for sharing your insights and ideas.
    And thanks for the freebie too!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  5. What a fabulous post, thank you so much! Highlighting unknown vocabulary is a common practice and I have a case study in my research project that focuses on struggling readers who are reluctant to highlight unknown vocabulary because they would essentially have to highlight most of the text! Therefore it was really timely that your blog post came through today and I sincerely appreciate it :) Will share it with my QLD teachers' FB groups:)
    Many thanks

  6. I love that you are stressing this in fourth grade. My sixth graders still love to highlight EVERYTHING and it is tough to break them out of it. I do something similar with my class, gradually having them complete a section central idea.
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  7. Wow! This is great!! We were JUST researching today & I was dismayed to see completely colored (dripping wet) highlighted papers! Yikes! I'm going to model & use your bookmarks. Thanks!!!

  8. Love it! As always a great post. Just shared it on my Five on the Fifth post. ;)

    I Teach. What's Your Super Power?


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