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Teaching the Long-Term Value of Annotation

To help high school students learn how to annotate, first show them why it’s a useful tool that will serve them now and in the future.

High school students taking notes in class

Annotation can be a difficult and stressful process for high school students and educators alike. It’s an essential skill across subject areas, something we expect students to just do, but rarely do we actually teach them how. Students don’t understand how to annotate and, more often than not, why it would be a useful tool in the first place. 

“If I understand the story, why should I annotate?” was a common refrain I heard from students. I noticed that many would highlight random sentences hoping to skate by in assessment. Others wouldn’t even attempt to engage in the process. I began to consider ways that I could support students in developing close reading and annotation in a collaborative and genuine way that would give them agency. 

The first step required that I think about why I saw annotation as valuable in the first place. Why did I see it as a skill that students needed in my classroom ? I created three primary beliefs to work from: 

  • Annotation is intentional, allowing us to engage more deeply with texts and ourselves. 
  • Annotation is practical in all areas of life and with all types of texts. 
  • Annotation offers agency and is a tool that we can use to interact with texts from where we are now. 

With these beliefs in mind, I worked to create a scaffolded process that provided structure and guidance in annotation while also facilitating choice.

Step 1: Create purpose 

Establish clear prompts to engage students. The teacher or the students can preselect these prompts, but the guided focus can be the first step to making meaningful observations. The more specific the prompts, the better.

For example, when studying world building, I have students look for physical descriptions, sociopolitical elements, and paranormal or supernatural elements. Assigning each prompt a specific color helps students to stay organized and easily pick out elements of focus later on. 

Step 2: Identify 

After students have read the text, I ask them to go back and identify the quotes or highlights that they see as the most interesting and/or important. I often have them circle, star, or otherwise mark these in some way. I also ask students to leave a note that explains their selection and the importance of this quote.

The goal in this step is to have students revisit the text and their initial noticings, making a habit of using their notes. This step also allows students to self-select what they see as important and defend their selection, providing ample opportunities for discussion and comparison. 

Step 3: Make meaning 

You can tailor the next step to the key elements of any lesson or specific text. Students use sticky notes to add on final thoughts, questions, or connections they may have in relation to the text. As with the previous steps, these can be adapted to the goals of the lesson or the needs of students.

For example, you may ask students in this step to speak directly to possible themes or a specific character. Again, this step builds the habit of going back and rereading and reviewing texts. It also aims to have students use their annotations to begin to synthesize, looking to explain larger abstract and complex topics such as theme or historical context. 

Step 4: Share meaning 

The final step requires collaborative discussion among students. When they follow the previous steps, every student has the ability to come to the discussion with quotes, ideas, and resources that will allow them to participate.

I often begin discussion with the prompts created in step one, allowing students to draw from textual evidence and meaning making from steps two and three. During or after the discussion, I have students again add to their notes and annotations, helping them see knowledge building as collaborative. 

When guided through this structured process several times, students become familiar with the process and embody the steps. They come to understand the need to annotate with purpose, to revisit the text, and to use the text in a discussion. The ultimate goal is for the instructor to slowly relinquish support until students are doing the process independently. Requiring students to identify prompts, asking them to independently revisit the text and add notes, or having them lead the discussion can achieve this goal. 

Ensuring that students have opportunities for skill development and practice enables them to utilize these skills not only in the ELA classroom and across the curriculum, but also throughout their lives.

7 Strategies for Teaching Students How to Annotate

  • November 7, 2018

For many educators, annotation goes hand in hand with developing close reading skills. Annotation more fully engages students and increases reading comprehension strategies, helping students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for literature.

However, it’s also one of the more difficult skills to teach. In order to think critically about a text, students need to learn how to actively engage with the text they’re reading. Annotation provides that immersive experience, and new digital reading technologies not only make annotation easier than ever, but also make it possible for any book, article, or text to be annotated.

Below are seven strategies to help your students master the basics of annotation and become more engaged, closer readers.

1. Teach the Basics of Good Annotation

Help your students understand that annotation is simply the process of thoughtful reading and making notes as they study a text. Start with some basic forms of annotation:

  • highlighting a phrase or sentence and including a comment
  • circling a word that needs defining
  • posing a question when something isn’t fully understood
  • writing a short summary of a key section

Assure them that good annotating will help them concentrate and better understand what they read and better remember their thoughts and ideas when they revisit the text.

2. Model Effective Annotation

One of the most effective ways to teach annotation is to show students your own thought process when annotating a text. Display a sample text and think out loud as you make notes. Show students how you might underline key words or sentences and write comments or questions, and explain what you’re thinking as you go through the reading and annotation process.

Annotation Activity: Project a short, simple text and let students come up and write their own comments and discuss what they’ve written and why. This type of modeling and interaction helps students understand the thought process that critical reading requires.

3. Give Your Students a Reading Checklist

When first teaching students about annotation, you can help shape their critical analysis and active reading strategies by giving them specific things to look for while reading, like a checklist or annotation worksheet for a text. You might have them explain how headings and subheads connect with the text, or have them identify facts that add to their understanding.

4. Provide an Annotation Rubric

When you know what your annotation goals are for your students, it can be useful to develop a simple rubric that defines what high-quality and thoughtful annotation looks like. This provides guidance for your students and makes grading easier for you. You can modify your rubric as goals and students’ needs change over time.

5. Keep It Simple

Especially for younger or struggling readers, help your students develop self-confidence by keeping things simple. Ask them to circle a word they don’t know, look up that word in the dictionary, and write the definition in a comment. They can also write an opinion on a particular section, so there’s no right or wrong answer.

6. Teach Your Students How to Annotate a PDF

Or other digital texts. Most digital reading platforms include a number of tools that make annotation easy. These include highlighters, text comments, sticky notes, mark up tools for underlining, circling, or drawing boxes, and many more. If you don’t have a digital reading platform, you can also teach how to annotate a basic PDF text using simple annotation tools like highlights or comments.

7. Make It Fun!

The more creative you get with annotation, the more engaged your students will be. So have some fun with it!

  • Make a scavenger hunt by listing specific components to identify
  • Color code concepts and have students use multicolored highlighters
  • Use stickers to represent and distinguish the five story elements: character, setting, plot, conflict, and theme
  • Choose simple symbols to represent concepts, and let students draw those as illustrated annotations: a magnifying glass could represent clues in the text, a key an important idea, and a heart could indicate a favorite part

Annotation Activity: Create a dice game where students have to find concepts and annotate them based on the number they roll. For example, 1 = Circle and define a word you don’t know, 2 = Underline a main character, 3 = Highlight the setting, etc.

Teaching students how to annotate gives them an invaluable tool for actively engaging with a text. It helps them think more critically, it increases retention, and it instills confidence in their ability to analyze more complex texts.

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Learning Center

Annotating Texts

What is annotation.

Annotation can be:

  • A systematic summary of the text that you create within the document
  • A key tool for close reading that helps you uncover patterns, notice important words, and identify main points
  • An active learning strategy that improves comprehension and retention of information

Why annotate?

  • Isolate and organize important material
  • Identify key concepts
  • Monitor your learning as you read
  • Make exam prep effective and streamlined
  • Can be more efficient than creating a separate set of reading notes

How do you annotate?

Summarize key points in your own words .

  • Use headers and words in bold to guide you
  • Look for main ideas, arguments, and points of evidence
  • Notice how the text organizes itself. Chronological order? Idea trees? Etc.

Circle key concepts and phrases

  • What words would it be helpful to look-up at the end?
  • What terms show up in lecture? When are different words used for similar concepts? Why?

Write brief comments and questions in the margins

  • Be as specific or broad as you would like—use these questions to activate your thinking about the content
  • See our handout on reading comprehension tips for some examples

Use abbreviations and symbols

  • Try ? when you have a question or something you need to explore further
  • Try ! When something is interesting, a connection, or otherwise worthy of note
  • Try * For anything that you might use as an example or evidence when you use this information.
  • Ask yourself what other system of symbols would make sense to you.


  • Highlight or underline, but mindfully. Check out our resource on strategic highlighting for tips on when and how to highlight.

Use comment and highlight features built into pdfs, online/digital textbooks, or other apps and browser add-ons

  • Are you using a pdf? Explore its highlight, edit, and comment functions to support your annotations
  • Some browsers have add-ons or extensions that allow you to annotate web pages or web-based documents
  • Does your digital or online textbook come with an annotation feature?
  • Can your digital text be imported into a note-taking tool like OneNote, EverNote, or Google Keep? If so, you might be able to annotate texts in those apps

What are the most important takeaways?

  • Annotation is about increasing your engagement with a text
  • Increased engagement, where you think about and process the material then expand on your learning, is how you achieve mastery in a subject
  • As you annotate a text, ask yourself: how would I explain this to a friend?
  • Put things in your own words and draw connections to what you know and wonder

The table below demonstrates this process using a geography textbook excerpt (Press 2004):

A chart featuring a passage from a text in the left column and then columns that illustrate annotations that include too much writing, not enough writing, and a good balance of writing.

A common concern about annotating texts: It takes time!

Yes, it can, but that time isn’t lost—it’s invested.

Spending the time to annotate on the front end does two important things:

  • It saves you time later when you’re studying. Your annotated notes will help speed up exam prep, because you can review critical concepts quickly and efficiently.
  • It increases the likelihood that you will retain the information after the course is completed. This is especially important when you are supplying the building blocks of your mind and future career.

One last tip: Try separating the reading and annotating processes! Quickly read through a section of the text first, then go back and annotate.

Works consulted:

Nist, S., & Holschuh, J. (2000). Active learning: strategies for college success. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 202-218.

Simpson, M., & Nist, S. (1990). Textbook annotation: An effective and efficient study strategy for college students. Journal of Reading, 34: 122-129.

Press, F. (2004). Understanding earth (4th ed). New York: W.H. Freeman. 208-210.

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annotation guide for high school

How to Do a Close Reading

Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide:

Close Reading Fundamentals

How to choose a passage to close-read, how to approach a close reading, how to annotate a passage, how to improve your close reading, how to practice close reading, how to incorporate close readings into an essay, how to teach close reading, additional resources for advanced students.

Close reading engages with the formal properties of a text—its literary devices, language, structure, and style. Popularized in the mid-twentieth century, this way of reading allows you to interpret a text without outside information such as historical context, author biography, philosophy, or political ideology. It also requires you to put aside your affective (that is, personal and emotional) response to the text, focusing instead on objective study. Why close-read a text? Doing so will increase your understanding of how a piece of writing works, as well as what it means. Perhaps most importantly, close reading can help you develop and support an essay argument. In this guide, you'll learn more about what close reading entails and find strategies for producing precise, creative close readings. We've included a section with resources for teachers, along with a final section with further reading for advanced students.

You might compare close reading to wringing out a wet towel, in which you twist the material repeatedly until you have extracted as much liquid as possible. When you close-read, you'll return to a short passage several times in order to note as many details about its form and content as possible. Use the links below to learn more about close reading's place in literary history and in the classroom.

"Close Reading" (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia's relatively short introduction to close reading contains sections on background, examples, and how to teach close reading. You can also click the links on this page to learn more about the literary critics who pioneered the method.

"Close Reading: A Brief Note" (Literariness.org)

This article provides a condensed discussion of what close reading is, how it works, and how it is different from other ways of reading a literary text.

"What Close Reading Actually Means" ( TeachThought )

In this article by an Ed.D., you'll learn what close reading "really means" in the classroom today—a meaning that has shifted significantly from its original place in 20th century literary criticism.

"Close Reading" (Univ. of Washington)

This hand-out from a college writing course defines close reading, suggests  why  we close-read, and offers tips for close reading successfully, including focusing on language, audience, and scope.

"Glossary Entry on New Criticism" (Poetry Foundation)

If you'd like to read a short introduction to the school of thought that gave rise to close reading, this is the place to go. Poetry Foundation's entry on New Criticism is concise and accessible.

"New Criticism" (Washington State Univ.)

This webpage from a college writing course offers another brief explanation of close reading in relation to New Criticism. It provides some key questions to help you think like a New Critic.

When choosing a passage to close-read, you'll want to look for relatively short bits of text that are rich in detail. The resources below offer more tips and tricks for selecting passages, along with links to pre-selected passages you can print for use at home or in the classroom.

"How to Choose the Perfect Passage for Close Reading" ( We Are Teachers )

This post from a former special education teacher describes six characteristics you might look for when selecting a close reading passage from a novel: beginnings, pivotal plot points, character changes, high-density passages, "Q&A" passages, and "aesthetic" passages. 

"Close Reading Passages" (Reading Sage)

Reading Sage provides links to close reading passages you can use as is; alternatively, you could also use them as models for selecting your own passages. The page is divided into sections geared toward elementary, middle school, and early high school students.

"Close Reading" (Univ. of Guelph)

The University of Guelph's guide to close reading contains a short section on how to "Select a Passage." The author suggests that you choose a brief passage. 

"Close Reading Advice" (Prezi)

This Prezi was created by an AP English teacher. The opening section on passage selection suggests choosing "thick paragraphs" filled with "figurative language and rich details or description."

Now that you know how to select a passage to analyze, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the textual qualities you should look for when reading. Whether you're approaching a poem, a novel, or a magazine article, details on the level of language (literary devices) and form (formal features) convey meaning. Understanding  how  a text communicates will help you understand  what  it is communicating. The links in this section will familiarize you with the tools you need to start a close reading.

Literary Devices

"Literary Devices and Terms" (LitCharts)

LitCharts' dedicated page covers 130+ literary devices. Also known as "rhetorical devices," "figures of speech," or "elements of style," these linguistic constructions are the building blocks of literature. Some of the most common include  simile , metaphor , alliteration , and onomatopoeia ; browse the links on LitCharts to learn about many more. 

"Rhetorical Device" (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia's page on rhetorical devices defines the term in relation to the ancient art of "rhetoric" or persuasive speaking. At the bottom of the page, you'll find links to several online handbooks and lists of rhetorical devices.

"15 Must Know Rhetorical Terms for AP English Literature" ( Albert )

The  Albert blog   offers this list of 15 rhetorical devices that high school English students should know how to define and spot in a literary text; though geared toward the Advanced Placement exam, its tips are widely applicable.

"The 55 AP Language and Composition Terms You Must Know" (PrepScholar)

This blog post lists 55 terms high school students should learn how to recognize and define for the Advanced Placement exam in English Literature.

Formal Features

In LitCharts' bank of literary devices and terms, you'll also find resources to describe a text's structure and overall character. Some of the most important of these are  rhyme , meter , and  tone ; browse the page to find more. 

"Rhythm" ( Encyclopedia Britannica )

This encyclopedia entry on rhythm and meter offers an in-depth definition of the two most fundamental aspects of poetry.

"How to Analyze Syntax for AP English Literature" ( Albert)

The Albert blog will help you understand what "syntax" is, making a case for why you should pay attention to sentence structure when analyzing a literary text.

"Grammar Basics: Sentence Parts and Sentence Structures" ( ThoughtCo )

This article provides a meticulous overview of the components of a sentence. It's useful if you need to review your parts of speech or if you need to be able to identify things like prepositional phrases.

"Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice" (Wheaton College)

Wheaton College's Writing Center offers this clear, concise discussion of several important formal features. Although it's designed to help essay writers, it will also help you understand and spot these stylistic features in others' work. 

Now that you know what rhetorical devices, formal features, and other details to look for, you're ready to find them in a text. For this purpose, it is crucial to annotate (write notes) as you read and re-read. Each time you return to the text, you'll likely notice something new; these observations will form the basis of your close reading. The resources in this section offer some concrete strategies for annotating literary texts.

"How to Annotate a Text" (LitCharts)

Begin by consulting our  How to Annotate a Text  guide. This collection of links and resources is helpful for short passages (that is, those for close reading) as well as longer works, like whole novels or poems.

"Annotation Guide" (Covington Catholic High School)

This hand-out from a high school teacher will help you understand why we annotate, and how to annotate a text successfully. You might choose to incorporate some of the interpretive notes and symbols suggested here.

"Annotating Literature" (New Canaan Public Schools)

This one-page, introductory resource provides a list of 10 items you should look for when reading a text, including attitude and theme.

"Purposeful Annotation" (Dave Stuart Jr.)

This article from a high school teacher's blog describes the author's top close reading strategy: purposeful annotation. In fact, this teacher more or less equates close reading with annotation.

Looking for ways to improve your close reading? The articles, guides, and videos in this section will expose you to various methods of close reading, as well as practice exercises. No two people read exactly the same way. Whatever your level of expertise, it can be useful to broaden your skill set by testing the techniques suggested by the resources below.

"How to Do a Close Reading" (Harvard College Writing Center)

This article, part of Harvard's comprehensive "Strategies for Essay Writing Guide," describes three steps to a successful close reading. You will want to return to this resource when incorporating your close reading into an essay.

"A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis" (Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center)

Working through this guide from another college writing center will help you move through the process of close reading a text. You'll find a sample analysis of Robert Frost's "Design" at the end.

"How to Do a Close Reading of a Text" (YouTube)

This four-minute video from the "Literacy and Math Ideas" channel offers a number of helpful tips for reading a text closely in accordance with Common Core standards.

"Poetry: Close Reading" (Purdue OWL)

Short, dense poems are a natural fit for the close reading approach. This page from the Purdue Online Writing Lab takes you step-by-step through an analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116.

"Steps for Close Reading or Explication de Texte" ( The Literary Link )

This page, which mentions close reading's close relationship to the French formalist method of  "explication de texte," shares "12 Steps to Literary Awareness."

You can practice your close reading skills by reading, re-reading and annotating any brief passage of text. The resources below will get you started by offering pre-selected passages and questions to guide your reading. You'll find links to resources that are designed for students of all levels, from elementary school through college.

"Notes on Close Reading" (MIT Open Courseware)

This resource describes steps you can work through when close reading, providing a passage from Mary Shelley's  Frankenstein  for you to test your skills.

"Close Reading Practice Worksheets" (Gillian Duff's English Resources)

Here, you'll find 10 close reading-centered worksheets you can download and print. The "higher-close-reading-formula" link at the bottom of the page provides a chart with even more steps and strategies for close reading.

"Close Reading Activities" (Education World)

The four activities described on this page are best suited to elementary and middle school students. Under each heading is a link to handouts or detailed descriptions of the activity.

"Close Reading Practice Passages: High School" (Varsity Tutors)

This webpage from Varsity Tutors contains over a dozen links to close reading passages and exercises, including several resources that focus on close-reading satire.

"Benjamin Franklin's Satire of Witch Hunting" (America in Class)

This page contains both a "teacher's guide" and "student version" to interpreting Benjamin Franklin's satire of a witch trial. The thirteen close reading questions on the right side of the page will help you analyze the text thoroughly.

Whether you're writing a research paper or an essay, close reading can help you build an argument. Careful analysis of your primary texts allows you to draw out meanings you want to emphasize, thereby supporting your central claim. The resources in this section introduce you to strategies suited to various common writing assignments.

"How to Write a Research Paper" (LitCharts)

The resources in this guide will help you learn to formulate a thesis, organize evidence, write an outline, and draft a research paper, one of the two most common assignments in which you might incorporate close reading.

"How to Write an Essay" (LitCharts)

In this guide, you'll learn how to plan, draft, and revise an essay, whether for the classroom or as a take-home assignment. Close reading goes hand in hand with the brainstorming and drafting processes for essay writing.

"Guide to the Close Reading Essay" (Univ. of Warwick)

This guide was designed for undergraduates, and assumes prior knowledge of formal features and rhetorical devices one might find in a poem. High schoolers will find it useful after addressing the "elements of a close reading" section above.

"Beginning the Academic Essay" (Harvard College Writing Center)

Harvard's guide discusses the broader category of the "academic essay." Here, the author assumes that your essay's close readings will be accompanied by context and evidence from secondary sources. 

A Short Guide to Writing About Literature (Amazon)

Sylvan Barnet and William E. Cain emphasize that writing is a process. In their book, you'll find definitions of important literary terms, examples of successful explications of literary texts, and checklists for essay writers.

Due in part to the Common Core's emphasis on close reading skills, resources for teaching students how to close-read abound. Here, you'll find a wealth of information on how and why we teach students to close-read texts. The first section includes links to activities, exercises, and complete lesson plans. The second section offers background material on the method, along with strategies for implementing close reading in the classroom.

Lesson Plans and Activities

"Four Lessons for Introducing the Fundamental Steps of Close Reading" (Corwin)

Here, Corwin has made the second chapter of Nancy Akhavan's  The Nonfiction Now Lesson Bank, Grades 4 – 8 available online. You'll find four sample lessons to use in the elementary or middle school classroom

"Sonic Patterns: Exploring Poetic Techniques Through Close Reading" ( ReadWriteThink )

This lesson plan for high school students includes material for five 50-minute sessions on sonic patterns (including consonance, assonance, and alliteration). The literary text at hand is Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays."

"Close Reading of a Short Text: Complete Lesson" (McGraw Hill via YouTube)

This eight-minute video describes a complete lesson in which a teacher models close reading of a short text and offers guiding questions.

"Close Reading Model Lessons" (Achieve the Core)

These three model lessons on close reading will help you determine what makes a text "appropriately complex" for the grade level you teach.

Close Reading Bundle (Teachers Pay Teachers)

This top-rated bundle of close reading resources was designed for the middle school classroom. It contains over 150 pages of worksheets, complete lesson plans, and literacy center ideas.

"10 Intriguing Photos to Teach Close Reading and Visual Thinking Skills" ( The New York Times )

The New York Times' s Learning Network has gathered 10 photos from the "What's Going on in This Picture" series that teachers can use to help students develop analytical and visual thinking skills.

"The Close Reading Essay" (Brandeis Univ.)

Brandeis University's writing program offers this detailed set of guidelines and goals you might use when assigning a close reading essay.

Close Reading Resources (Varsity Tutors)

Varsity Tutors has compiled a list of over twenty links to lesson plans, strategies, and activities for teaching elementary, middle school, and high school students to close read.

Background Material and Teaching Strategies

Falling in Love with Close Reading (Amazon)

Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts aim to show how close reading can be "rigorous, meaningful, and joyous." It offers a three-step "close reading ritual" and engaging lesson plans.

Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading (Amazon)

Kylene Beers (a former Senior Reading Researcher at Yale) and Robert E. Probst (a Professor Emeritus of English Education) introduce six "signposts" readers can use to detect significant moments in a work of literature.

"How to Do a Close Reading" (YouTube)

TeachLikeThis offers this four-minute video on teaching students to close-read by looking at a text's language, narrative, syntax, and context.

"Strategy Guide: Close Reading of a Literary Text" ( ReadWriteThink )

This guide for middle school and high school teachers will help you choose texts that are appropriately complex for the grade level you teach, and offers strategies for planning engaging lessons.

"Close Reading Steps for Success" (Appletastic Learning)

Shelly Rees, a teacher with over 20 years of experience, introduces six helpful steps you can use to help your students engage with challenging reading passages. The article is geared toward elementary and middle school teachers.

"4 Steps to Boost Students' Close Reading Skills" ( Amplify )

Doug Fisher, a professor of educational leadership, suggests using these four steps to help students at any grade level learn how to close read. 

Like most tools of literary analysis, close reading has a complex history. It's not necessary to understand the theoretical underpinnings of close reading in order to use this tool. For advanced high school students and college students who ask "why close-read," though, the resources below will serve as useful starting points for discussion.

"Discipline and Parse: The Politics of Close Reading" ( Los Angeles Review of Books )

This book review by a well-known English professor at Columbia provides an engaging, anecdotal introduction to close reading's place in literary history. Robbins points to some of the method's shortcomings, but also elegantly defends it.

"Intentional Fallacy" ( Encyclopedia Britannica )

The literary critics who developed close reading cautioned against judging a text based on the author's intention. This encyclopedia entry offers an expanded definition of this way of reading, called the "intentional fallacy."

"Seven Types of Ambiguity" (Wikipedia)

This Wikipedia article will introduce you to William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity  (1930), one of the foundational texts of New Criticism, the school of thought that theorized close reading.

"What is Distant Reading" ( The New York Times)

This article makes it clear that "close reading" isn't the only way to analyze literary texts. It offers a brief introduction to the "distant reading" method of computational criticism pioneered by Franco Moretti in recent years.

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annotation guide for high school

5 Simple Steps to Teach Text Annotation in the Secondary Classroom

5 Simple Steps to Teach Text Annotation in the Secondary Classroom

Teaching students how to annotate text can be an intimidating task. Likewise, for our students, annotating text can be equally as daunting, especially if they don’t have a process of their own that works or steps to follow.

annotation guide for high school

When I teach my students how to annotate text , I use these simple steps to break down the process into a manageable task for my students. There are also a variety of strategies that I use when I teach and model students how to annotate text.

Step 1: Preview the Text

Before I have my students annotate text, I want them to get an overall feel for the text. I have them look at and read headlines, subheads, pictures, captions, headings, graphs, and pull-out quotes. It is also helpful to have a classroom discussion to activate prior knowledge about the topic of the text.

Step 2: Read a Small Section of Text

Since close reading and text annotation can be a daunting task, I have my students only focus on a small portion of it at a time. This makes the task less intimidating for students. It also enables them to focus more closely on a section of text rather than get lost in the entirety of the text. When we first begin annotating at the start of a new school year, we typically just focus on one paragraph at a time. By doing so, this helps build student confidence.

Step 3: Annotate the Section You Read

Once they’ve read the small section, I provide my students with (or encourage them to) go back and annotate the section they’ve just read. As they become more confident in their close reading and text annotation skills, students will incorporate steps 2 and 3 together, but as they are learning and practicing the skill, I’ve found that students annotate more thoroughly when they read and then annotate.

Step 4: Review Your Annotations

It is essential to have students go back and review their annotations. This reinforces the process that the students are completing, as well as gives them an opportunity to review their annotations and margin notes so that they gain a better understanding of the text. One way that I like to review annotations in class is to have students partner up after completing individual annotations. In partner groups, they share their notes with one another. This is especially helpful if you have students partner up two different times. They will get to see annotations from two other students. 

Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4

As students work through the text, they will complete steps 2-4 until they finish annotating the entire document. As students near the end of the document, they will become more confident in their annotating abilities.

While annotating all different types of text generally follows these steps, there are a few different things that I do when I teach my students how to annotate fiction , annotate nonfiction , and annotate poetry. I’ve included all of these lessons and resources in an Annotating Made Simple Bundle .

5 Simple Steps to Teach Text Annotation in the Secondary Classroom

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annotation guide for high school


Back to School With Annotation: 10 Ways to Annotate With Students

By jeremydean | 25 August, 2015


It’s back-to-school season and I find myself once again encouraging teachers to discuss course readings with their students using collaborative web annotation technologies like Hypothesis. Though relatively new to Hypothesis, I’ve been making this pitch for a few years now,  but in conversations with educators of late I’ve come to realize that we often mean different things by the word “annotate.” Annotation connotes something distinct in specific subject areas, at different  grade and skill levels, and within certain teaching philosophies. This will be the first semester during which Hypothesis has an active education department and so in the spirit these first days of the school year, I thought it might be worth exploring what we really mean when we say, “annotate.”

Annotation is typically perceived as a means to an end. As marginal note-taking it often is the basis for questions asked in class discussion or points made in a final paper. But annotation can also be a kind of end in itself, or at least more than a rest-stop on the way to intellectual discovery. This becomes especially true when annotation is brought into the relatively public and collaborative space of social reading online. Digital marginalia as such requires a redefinition or at least expanded understanding of what is traditionally meant by the act of “annotation.”

Billy Collins’ poem “Marginalia” outlines various ways that people have annotated throughout history, including in formal education contexts. But even within pre-digital student marginalia there can be a wide range of types of annotation from defining terms and explaining allusions to analytic commentary to more creative responses to the text at hand. As annotation becomes social and media-rich as it does using Hypothesis and other web annotation technologies, these species of marginalia only further proliferate.

For those curious about integrating annotation exercises into an assignment or a course, below I outline ten practical ways that one might annotate with a class. This list is by no means exhaustive–the larger point is that there are a lot of different ways for students and teachers to annotate. I’d love to hear about your experiences with annotation in the classroom in notes and comments here or even in your own blog posts on Hypothesis. My hope is that over the course of the coming semesters, Hypothesis will develop as a community of educators sharing their ideas, assignments, successes, and failures. As always, feel free to contact me at [email protected] to chat further about collaborative annotation! (For a more technical guide to using Hypothesis, see our tutorials on getting started here.)

1. Teacher Annotations

Pre-populate a text with questions for students to reply to in annotations or notes elucidating important points as they read.


One of the amazing aspects of social reading is that you can be inside the text with your students while they are reading, facilitating their comprehension, inspiring their analysis, and observing their confusion and insight. It’s about as close as you can get to the intimacy of in-class interaction online. You can guide students through the reading with your annotations, offering context and possible interpretations. This allows you to be the Norton editor of your course readings, but attentive to the particular themes of your course or local contexts of your classroom community. Or you can provoke student responses to the text through annotating with questions to be answered in replies to your annotations. Looking at responses to a question posed in the margin of a text is a great starting point for class discussion in a blended course. In the classroom, students can be prompted to expand on points begun as annotations to jumpstart the conversation. And when there is no physical classroom space, as in online courses, annotation can be a means for the instructor to have a similar guiding presence and to create an engaging and engaged community of readers.

The real pedagogical innovation of collaborative annotation, however, is that students are empowered as knowledge producers in their own right, so most of my suggested classroom annotation practices revolve around a variety of student-centered annotation activities in which they are the ones posing the questions and teachers are co-learners in the reading process. There are also other use cases, however, for teacher annotation, such as using web annotation to comment on student writing published online.

2. Annotation as Gloss

Have students look up difficult words or unknown allusions in a text and share their research as annotations.

Annotation bookshelf by Lau Design.

Practical across a wide range of skill levels, this exercise can span from simply creating a list of vocabulary words from a text for study to presenting, as a class or individually, a text annotated like a scholarly volume. We’ve seen this kind of exercise completed on great works of literature as well as scientific research papers. Think of the activity as creating a kind of inline Wikipedia on top of your course reading. For difficult texts, sharing the burden of the research necessary for comprehension can help students better understand their reading. And there is something incredibly powerful about students beginning to imagine themselves as scholars, responsible for guiding a real audience through a text, whether their own peers or a broader intellectual community. Students can be encouraged to practice skills like rephrasing research material appropriately and citing sources using different formatting styles. And, of course, glossing can be combined with more insightful annotation as well.

Protip: If you plan to annotate across multiple texts with a class, have students use a course tag (like “Eng101DrDeanFall15”) in all of their annotations. Tagging in this way allows both teacher and students to follow the group’s work on a class stream of activity. Here’s an example of what such a class tag stream looks like from one of our most active educators, Greg McVerry.  More on the pedagogy of tags in this tutorial. Note: very soon (in a matter of weeks) we will be launching a private group feature that will streamline this workflow–annotations will be publishable to a specific group and that group will have a stream that can be followed.

3. Annotation as Question

Have students highlight, tag, and annotate words or passages that are confusing to them in their readings.

An annotation need not be, and often is not, an answer. A simple question mark in the margin of a book can flag a word or passage for discussion. And such discussions can be generative of important explication and analysis. Directing students to annotate in this way creates a sort of heat map for the instructor that can be used to zero in on troubling sections and subjects or spark class discussion. Tags categorizing the particular problem could be used as a simple way to prompt clarification (vocab, plts, research methods, etc.).

While the teacher can respond to such student annotations, a possible follow up exercise could have students respond to each other’s questions instead.

4. Annotation as Close Reading

Have students identify formal textual elements and broader social and historical contexts at work in specific passages.

Online annotation powerfully enacts the careful selection of text for in-depth analysis that is the hallmark of much high school and college English and language arts curriculum. Using web annotation, students are required to literally select small pieces of meaningful evidence from a document for specific analysis. Teachers can direct students to identify textual features (word choice, repetition, imagery, metaphor, etc.) or relevant broader contexts (historical, biographical, cultural, etc.) for passages of a text, and then prompt them to develop a short argument based on such evidence. Collaborative close reading can be especially effective in that multiple students can build off each other’s interpretations to demonstrate how deep textual analysis can go. Teachers implementing the Common Core State Standards for reading might pay special attention to this use case for annotation in the classroom.

Common Core State Standards for Reading, Anchor Standard 1.

Some teachers will use web annotation as a tool throughout the semester for this purpose. Students thus gain regular practice in close reading and build ideas towards more substantive, summative assignments. Such assignments can also begin as collaborative exercises done by the entire class and culminate with individual or small group annotation projects.

5. Annotation as Rhetorical Analysis

Have students mark and explain the use of rhetorical strategies in online articles or essays.

Whether analyzed as a class or individually, a clearly argumentative piece should be chosen for this assignment, perhaps from an op-ed page in a newspaper or magazine. Students might be asked first to simply identify rhetorical strategies (like ethos , pathos , and logos ) using the tag feature in annotations created with Hypothesis. On a second pass, they can be asked to elaborate on how and why a certain strategy is being used by the author. Identification of rhetorical fallacies could be built into this or a related assignment as well. Note: in order to make such an exercise more streamlined, we plan in the near to future allow users to pre-populate a set of controlled terms with which a group can tag their annotations.

Combined with exercises six and nine, annotation as rhetorical analysis could be part of a composition course that also has students map arguments in a controversy using annotation and then begin their own advocacy through annotation of primary sources mapped and analyzed. (This is how the rhetoric department at UT-Austin, where I taught while getting my PhD., structures their freshman composition courses.) A twist on this assignment could ask students to analyze their own persuasive prose in this way–discussion of such self-reflexive annotation on one’s own writing is a whole other category of annotation, probably deserving of a blog post in itself.

6. Annotation as Opinion

Have students share their personal opinions on a controversial topic as discussed by an article.

A lot of how people are interacting with content online today—commenting on web articles, Tweeting about them with brief notes–is a kind of annotation. At Hypothesis we might think of web annotation as a more rigorous form of such engagement with language and ideas on the Internet. Framing one’s opinions as annotations of specific statements or facts is a reminder that our arguments should be grounded in actual evidence. In any case, allowing students to express their opinions in the margins of the Web, and helping them become responsible and thoughtful in those expressions, is a huge part of what it means to be literate both on the Web and in democratic society more generally. Students could be asked simply to respond to the reading with their thoughts, as in a dialectical reading journal, or employ specific cultural or persuasive strategies in their rhetorical intervention.

Again, this advocacy exercise could be a summative assignment within a unit that uses Hypothesis to complete annotation activities like those described in ways five and nine here.

7. Annotation as Multimedia Writing

Have students annotate with images and video or integrate images and video into other types of annotations.

A student annotation with evocative use of images on Genius.com.

One of the unique aspects of online annotation (and online writing in general) is the ability to include multimedia elements in the composition process. We’ve found many teachers and students excited to make use of animated GIFs in annotation. The use of images can simply be representative (this is a reference to Lincoln with a photo of the 16th president), but more advanced students can be taught to think about how images themselves make arguments and serve other rhetorical purposes.

It is advisable to spend a lesson introducing the idea of digital writing to students with particular attention to the use of images, covering everything from search to use policies and attribution. More traditional teachers may be less accustomed to assessing such multimedia compositions and should spend some time thinking about and explaining to their students a grading rubric.

8. Annotation as Independent Study

Have students explore the Internet on their own with some limited direction (find an article from a respectable source on a topic important to you personally), exercising traditional literacy skills (define difficult words, identify persuasive strategies, etc.).

Many of the above exercises presume that students are annotating for the most part together on a shared course text. But the nature of web annotation is that we can see the notes of others even if we are not reading the same text. In this way, we can attend to annotations as texts themselves. Like a friend’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, seeing someone else navigate the world can be interesting. And through web annotation students can be taught to navigate the digital world responsibly and thoughtfully. Protip: because each Hypothesis user’s annotations are streamed on their public “My Annotations” page, teachers can monitor and assess student work there rather than on individual texts if so desired. (You can click on a username attached to an annotation or search the Hypothesis stream for a username to locate this page. Here’s mine. )

Whether or not one goes so far as to let students roam free on the open Web applying their classroom learning, we have found it to be valuable to have a unit develop from collaborative work to independent or small group work. Students might start off annotating together on a few select texts, getting a sense of what annotation means and how a particular platform like Hypothesis works, but by the end of a term become responsible for glossing or analyzing a single text or set of texts themselves.

9. Annotation as Annotated Bibliography

Have students research a topic or theme and tag and annotate relevant texts across the Internet.

Tagging in page-level annotations as social bookmarking.

This is a different kind of annotation than largely discussed above. Here we are annotating on the level of the document rather than on a particular selection of text. (Users can create unanchored annotations for this purpose using the annotation icon on the sidebar without selecting any particular text within a document.) But this annotation exercise practices solid research skills and can be used as preparation for research assignments. In fact, using annotation as a annotated bibliography assignment is an excellent way for teachers to follow and guide student research during the process itself. The result of this assignment will be something useful for a paper such as a summary of the major stakeholders of a particular issue and how they articulate their positions.

Of course this kind of annotation as page-level commentary can be combined with more fine-grained attention through annotation to the texts of these tagged documents. In addition to outlining sources needed for a paper, the student can begin to break down those sources for close reading within an essay.

10. Annotation as Creative Act

Have students respond creatively to their reading with their own poetry or prose or visual art as annotations.

Book art by Kaspen for the Anagram Bookstore.

Annotation need not be overtly analytical. Whether in writing or using other media, students can respond creatively to texts under study through annotation as well, inserting themselves within the intertextual web that is the history of literature and culture. One creative writing exercise might be to have students annotate in the voices of a characters from a novel being read. Or to have them re-imagine passages written as newspaper stories. Nathan Blom’s Annotated Lear Project at LaGuardia Arts High School is a great example of students creatively responding to a text through annotation.

Students can also use their imaginations to annotate texts with their own drawings, photographs, or videos inline with the relevant sources of textual inspiration. Whether completed individually or collaboratively this exercise can result in some wonderful, illustrated editions of course texts.

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September 21, 2023 ELA PD - Literacy , ELA K-5 , ELA 6-8 , ELA Focus - Close Reading , ELA Resources - Tip Sheets , Core Literacy

Annotating text strategies that enhance close reading [free printable], by: erin lynch.

One of the most important skills I teach my students as we begin to work on close reading is how to annotate texts. Teaching annotation strategies will help students keep track of key ideas while reading. In this article, you'll discover annotating strategies that will enhance close reading and free printable resources you can use in the classroom!

 Download the Annotating Practice Kit now!


Annotating Text Strategies

Annotating a text is when the reader “marks up” a text to indicate places of importance or something they don’t understand. Sometimes students annotate by circling a word, underlining a phrase or highlighting a sentence. Annotating also includes writing notes in the margin; these notes might be thoughts or questions about the text. This process of annotating helps the reader keep track of ideas and questions and supports deeper understanding of the text.

Teaching annotation strategies will help students keep track of key ideas, and will help them formulate thoughts and questions they have while reading.

Benefits of Annotating a Text

The benefits of annotation include:

  • Keeping track of key ideas and questions
  • Helping formulate thoughts and questions for deeper understanding
  • Fostering analyzing and interpreting texts
  • Encouraging the reader to make inferences and draw conclusions about the text
  • Allowing the reader to easily refer back to the text without rereading the text in its entirety

Annotating With a Purpose

Students are taught to read with a purpose, and they should also be taught to annotate with a purpose. Teaching students to annotate with a purpose will help them focus on what is most important about the text.

When teaching annotation I instruct students to use the following symbols:

Underline key ideas and major points.

Write a ? next to anything that is confusing, such as unfamiliar words or unclear information.

Circle key words or phrases.

Put an ! next to surprising or important information or information that helps you make a connection.

Printable Annotation Examples and Activities

Model for annotating a text , grades 2–5.

Download my Model for Annotating a Text which uses the poem The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt. My students have enjoyed using this poem as an introduction to the close reading of poetry and the skill of annotating.

The Model for Annotating a Text download includes an instructional tip sheet and annotation examples for students. You can make individual copies for your students to keep handy, or enlarge the annotation example to a poster size and hang it in the classroom!

Here's how to use the Model for Annotating a Text :

Explain to students that the annotations of skillful readers identify what they don’t understand and point out major facts or ideas they want to remember and use in their discussions and writing. Annotation also encourages readers to make inferences and to draw conclusions about the text, as well as to make interpretations on a deeper level.

Next, review the symbols students should use when annotating a text. Caution students that over-annotating will be confusing rather than helpful.

Then read the poem The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt and pause to model how to annotate with your students.

Download my Model for Annotating a Text which uses the poem The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt.

"I Have a Dream" Close Reading Kit, Grades 3–8

My "I Have a Dream" Close Reading Kit also includes resources for teaching close reading annotation! In the kit you'll find an instructional guide for teachers and annotations for the first 10 paragraphs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Use this kit to model close reading in your classroom!

My "I Have a Dream" Close Reading Kit also includes resources for teaching close reading annotation!

Annotating Practice Worksheets Kit, Grades 1–8

Once your students have learned the correct way to annotate a text, have them practice annotating with a purpose! With the Annotating Practice Kit , students will practice their annotation skills while reading the following articles:

  • The First Playground
  • The Dove and the Ant
  • Sea Otters!

Use the worksheets and text excerpts in the Annotating Practice Kit to get students annotating with a purpose.

In Conclusion

Teaching your students how to annotate with a purpose will help them keep track of key ideas, and will help them formulate thoughts and questions they have while reading. It also encourages the reader to make inferences and draw conclusions about the text, as well as, make interpretations on a deeper level. Annotating allows the reader to easily refer back to the text without rereading the text in its entirety.

Grab the free downloads today and use them with students as they begin to annotate texts.

annotation guide for high school

annotation guide for high school

6 Remarkable Ideas for Meaningful Collaborative Annotations

  • October 20, 2021
  • AP Literature , English 11

As high school teachers we are always looking for ways to engage our students in authentic and creative ways.  And we love engagement that has sneaky outcomes as well.  Collaborative annotations is one of those tools we have that can really get kids thinking, while increasing the level of inquiry and understanding.

Using Collaborative Annotations in High School English | A variety of ideas for how to incorporate social annotations in High School English | English 9, English 10, English 11 and English 12, AP Literature & AP Language

What are Collaborative Annotations?

Simply put, collaborative annotations, sometimes called social annotations, are a form of collaborative notes in the margins of a text created by a group of people reading the same text.  This is a great way to bring groups into close reading exercises in high school English classes.

Collaborative annotations can be done the “old fashioned way” with pen and paper or on digital platforms and there are so many ways that we can utilize this in the high school English classroom.

Pen & Paper or Digital Platform?

Social annotations completed use paper and a pen, pencil and highlighter and those completed on digital platforms all have their benefits.  There is something to be said about that physical interaction with the text that happens when you underline something and then put a note in the margins.  It is something I have been doing since I was in high school myself (which means we’re talking about 30+ years of annotating text).  Once you add those notes, you are part of the text.  

However, in the age of 1:1 and hybrid classes, digital annotation for collaborative close readings have an equally important place.  Using Google platforms like Docs and Jamboard allow you, as the teacher, more oversight while allowing students to connect even if they are not in the same room at the same time. 

Either way, you cannot go wrong having your students complete some collaborative annotations.

So the next question I get is how big should your groups be.  And, of course, the answer to that question varies.  Really, it depends on the way you want to structure your students’ interactions with the texts and each other.  You can work these annotations in groups with as few as 2 students or with the whole class.  I will give you suggestions for all of those scenarios below.

6 Ideas for Collaborative Annotations in High School English | A variety of ideas for how to incorporate social annotations in High School English | English 9, English 10, English 11 and English 12, AP Literature & AP Language

Ways to Have Students Participate in Collaborative Annotations

Students pairs—silent seminars.

If you are looking to stick to working with one other student, try Silent Seminars.  (This also works for groups of three.) In a silent seminar, students carry on a conversation without speaking out loud.  It’s good for days when you just need quiet or when not all of your students are in the same room.

annotation guide for high school

Silent Seminar Set Up

Assign groups, determine the passage(s) give them a topic (if you wish) and let them start “talking.”  This can be done very informally with a blank sheet of paper and a pen or you can use a template that you set up in Google Slides or Google Docs.  Or you can do something more fun. For example you can use characters like this Silent Seminar Tool pictured above.  Students then engage in discussing the text through writing in a back and forth manner.

I used silent seminars during my Hamlet unit last spring. Students focused their attention on revenge in Hamlet after we had done some close reading on the Act 3 soliloquies where both men focus on guilt and the purpose for their actions. Student who were physically in the room were paired with students who were at home.

Here is a fun template you can use for Silent Seminars .

Small Groups (3-6)—Pass-a-Passage Same Text

I love Pass-a-Passage Collaborative Annotations and I have used it with all level of students.  This one works better in person (as my experience attempting it in a hybrid setting was all but a failure!).  Students each have the same text:  a poem, a short story story (for my favorite short short stories, check out this post ) or an excerpt. 

You can give specific focus tasks or author’s craft you want the the students to look for in this collaborative close reading exercise and then they each take a turn writing on the other students’ papers. Each person adds additional notes.

Small Groups (3-6)—Pass-a-Passage Different Texts

You can also do Pass-a-Passage Annotations with different texts.  You will need to have a variety of passages that are approximately the same length and for which the order of reading doesn’t matter too much.  I like to use this for close reading with a longer text to pull out a specific theme or motif.  You will need enough passages for the number of students in the groups.  So if your groups will be three then you need three passages.

Students will follow the same procedure and set up regardless of whether they are reading the same text or different texts.

Pass-a-Passage Set Up

This works best if all of your groups are the same size.  Because attendance can be so variable, I will often wait until the students are in class to determine the size of groups.  This is one of those times when a good old counting off to determine you group can be ideal.

I love to jump in with a group to even things out when a class needs just one more person to makes groups even.  So don’t be afraid to be a participant in this process.  The kids love it when you do.

You will also need a timer for this (you can use your phone or something on-line that you can project on the screen).  Determine the amount of time you want to give for each round, then set a time and have student begin adding notes to their own passages.  When time is up, they pass their paper to the person sitting to their right (or left, you can pick the direction).  Set the timer again and have students begin adding annotations to their group member’s passage.  Keep going until you have gone through all members of the group.

Notes about Timing:  I like to give the first read more time.  They will need more time familiarize themselves with the passage and make notes.  I then reduce the time for the subsequent rounds.  You can reduce it each time or just after the round. If you are choosing to give each student a different passage, you will want to keep all the times even.

Writing Utensils

I like to have students “identify” their notes by using different colored writing utensil.  Having colored pencils, colored pens or skinny markers on hand can insure that you have enough variety.  But even if you only have a supply of blue, black and red pens along with pencils, you will have 4 colors.  You can also have students right their names at the top of the page as they complete their round.  That way both you and the students know where specific annotations came from.

About the Annotations

Make it clear that students must add something each round.  This means that if someone “took” their annotation from a previous round they will need to look for something new or they will need to develop the annotations that have already been made.  So if one student notes that something is a simile, the next student might make a note about what the author is attempting to do through the use of that simile and then next student can even take it a step farther.  You might model this if you have another teacher in your classroom or even with a brave volunteer student.  Have the student identify something in the text and you add to the notation.

Be sure that students understand that just pointing out craft in the text doesn’t take the close reading annotations far enough.  They should start to pose questions, discuss impact of an author move and develop theories.

annotation guide for high school

Small Groups (2-4)—Poster Collaborative Annotations

This is another social annotation that has kids working on the same text, but instead of working on one text that they pass around, there are literally working on one text that has been enlarged to let students work on it together.  

Poster Annotations Set Up

This works best if each group has their own text to work on first.  They can be working on different poems or excerpts from the same text.  The text should be enlarged and then attached to a piece of chart paper.  Students can then work on annotating specific things about a text like the syntax or the structure or the characterization right on that large format text.  Once students have completed the annotation, you can have a gallery walk followed by a full class discussion. 

I do a version of this in my Sonnet Group Annotation Assignment .

Mid to Large Groups—Walk Around Collaborative Annotations

This style of collaborative annotations is great for getting kids out of their seats.  Like the poster annotations, you will need large format text available for the students to add their annotation.

Walk Around Annotations Set Up

This works great for short short stories or poems, but definitely could work with excerpts from a larger work.  Again, you need to enlarge what you want students to annotate, but they should also have regular copies to work with as well.  Divide up the text into passages and then hang the enlarged copies around the room.  If you have a large class, you might want two sets of the same text or divide the passage into smaller chunks.

Have students begin by reading or rereading the passages and annotating on their own texts.  Then when they are ready, have them get up and walk around adding annotations to each passage.  Have poster markers ready because it makes it easier to read the annotations from a distance.  

When students have completed the annotation, you can have them walk around and review the annotations, add notes to their own text and prepare to discuss as a full class.  I use this walk-around time to check out what the students have said so that I can pull ideas to bring up in the discussion.

There is a version of this activity in my Flash Fiction Boot Camp Unit .

annotation guide for high school

Mid to Large Groups—Digital Collaborative Annotations

There are several ways that you can have larger groups participate in digital collaborative annotations.  The first is through a digital whiteboard program like Jamboard.  You can read about all the ways you can use Jamboard in the High School English classroom here.

Digital Annotations Set UP

To use a digital whiteboard for social annotations, simply post the passage as the background on the slides of the digital white board, share the link making everyone an editor. Then have students use the tools in the program to begin making notes. If you use a program like Jamboard remember that the annotations are anonymous so you will want to have the kids add their names if you want to know who the author is.

Another way to do digital annotations would be through Google Docs or Goole Slides.  Just share the passage in a link.  Make sure that students have the ability to edit.  And if you are using Slides, save an image of the text as a background then the kids can’t move it.

Both Docs and Slides work well for different reason.  In slides, you can anchor the image of the text so that it cannot be changed, while in Docs you can use both the text tools and the comment tool.  Just like when working with paper, you will want to have kids choose a color if you want to be able to identify who the annotations belong to.

If you don’t want to share a Doc or link with the whole class, you can assign a text through Google Classroom Assignments, then assign group leaders and have them share with the rest of their group.

For more on using Jamboard in High School English Class, check out this post .

Digital Collaborations for the Win!

Using social annotations is a great way to have your kids truly engaged in a text and truly collaborating with each other to share their thinking. I have tried all of these in my classroom and they have all been successful in mixing it up and getting kids thinking and sharing their ideas about texts. Give it a try and let me know in the comments if you do and how you adapt it for your own use.

Related Resources

The perfect list of 20 Short Short Stories for AP Literature and more.

For more on using Jamboard in High School English Class .

Use Sonnets for Collaborative Annotations– read more about teaching Sonnets .

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Flash Fiction Boot Camp Unit for AP Literature

Sonnet Group Annotation Assignment

A fun template you can use for Silent Seminars

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Jeanmarie McLaughlin at McLaughlin Teaches English

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Reading and Study Strategies

What is annotating and why do it, annotation explained, steps to annotating a source, annotating strategies.

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What is Annotating?

Annotating is any action that deliberately interacts with a text to enhance the reader's understanding of, recall of, and reaction to the text. Sometimes called "close reading," annotating usually involves highlighting or underlining key pieces of text and making notes in the margins of the text. This page will introduce you to several effective strategies for annotating a text that will help you get the most out of your reading.

Why Annotate?

By annotating a text, you will ensure that you understand what is happening in a text after you've read it. As you annotate, you should note the author's main points, shifts in the message or perspective of the text, key areas of focus, and your own thoughts as you read. However, annotating isn't just for people who feel challenged when reading academic texts. Even if you regularly understand and remember what you read, annotating will help you summarize a text, highlight important pieces of information, and ultimately prepare yourself for discussion and writing prompts that your instructor may give you. Annotating means you are doing the hard work while you read, allowing you to reference your previous work and have a clear jumping-off point for future work.

1. Survey : This is your first time through the reading

You can annotate by hand or by using document software. You can also annotate on post-its if you have a text you do not want to mark up. As you annotate, use these strategies to make the most of your efforts:

  • Include a key or legend on your paper that indicates what each marking is for, and use a different marking for each type of information. Example: Underline for key points, highlight for vocabulary, and circle for transition points.
  • If you use highlighters, consider using different colors for different types of reactions to the text. Example: Yellow for definitions, orange for questions, and blue for disagreement/confusion.
  • Dedicate different tasks to each margin: Use one margin to make an outline of the text (thesis statement, description, definition #1, counter argument, etc.) and summarize main ideas, and use the other margin to note your thoughts, questions, and reactions to the text.

Lastly, as you annotate, make sure you are including descriptions of the text as well as your own reactions to the text. This will allow you to skim your notations at a later date to locate key information and quotations, and to recall your thought processes more easily and quickly.

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How To Annotate Books? Best Full Guide [2022]

How To Annotate Books Best Full Guide [2022]

It is a great way to keep track and organize the thoughts that you have read in the books that you own. You can refer back to your notes later. It is also a good way to practice critical and analytical thinking. How do you annotate books? Penn Book will show you how to annotate books in detail. Let’s get started.

What Does it Mean to Annotate Books?

What Does it Mean to Annotate Books

Annotation has traditionally been defined as “the critical or explanatory notes added to a text.” More recently, however, the definition of annotation has been expanded to include “any explanatory notes added to a text,” whether they are critical, explanatory, or simply descriptive.

This expanded definition reflects the growing recognition that annotation can be a valuable tool for all readers, not just scholars and students.

Annotations can take many different forms, but all annotations share one common goal: to help readers engage with a text in a deeper and more thoughtful way.

Annotations can provide information about the author, the historical context in which the text was written, the structure of the argument, or key themes and symbols. Annotations can also offer personal reflections on the text, or simply point out interesting passages.

Whatever form they take, annotations should always be readable and understandable. When done well, annotation can turn a dry and difficult text into an engaging and thought-provoking experience.

Why Should You Annotate Books?

There are many reasons you should annotate books. One reason is that it can help you better understand what you are reading. If you encounter an unfamiliar word or phrase, you can search for its meaning and jot down the definition in the margins. This practice can aid in retaining the word’s definition and comprehending the context in which it was utilized.

Another reason to annotate books is that it can help you remember key points and ideas. If you highlight or underline important passages and then write a brief summary of why it was important in the margins, you will be able to quickly review the most important concepts before exams or papers. Organizing your reflections and annotations while reading is an additional advantage of this method.

Finally, annotation can simply make reading more enjoyable. By jotting down notes in the margins, you are prone to be more attentive and engage in critical thinking concerning the content you are reading. This can lead to deeper insights and a greater appreciation for the literature.

What Supplies Do You Need to Annotate a Book?

What Supplies Do You Need to Annotate a Book

In order to annotate a book, you will need a few supplies. You will require a pen or a pencil to annotate in the margins of the book.

Highlighters can also be helpful in order to draw attention to important passages. Post-it notes can be used to flag pages or sections that you want to come back to.

Ultimately, a notepad or a sheet of paper can be utilized to note down any reflections or queries that arise during your reading.

How do you Annotate a Book Without Ruining it?

Pencils or colored pens.

Avoid using a regular pen or highlighter, as these can bleed through the pages and make it difficult to read the text. Instead, use a pencil or colored pens to underline or highlight important sections.

Sticky Notes

In case you prefer not to write directly in the book, you can utilize sticky notes to indicate essential sections or record your reflections.

Use different colors: Use different colored sticky notes to mark different types of annotations, such as blue for important concepts, yellow for questions, and pink for examples.

Write short notes: Keep your notes brief and to the point, using shorthand or abbreviations where possible. This will allow you to fit more annotations on each sticky note and make them easier to read.

Use tabs and flags: Use sticky tabs and flags to mark specific pages or sections that are particularly important. This will help you quickly find and reference important information later on.

Organize your notes: Use a system of organization that makes sense to you, such as grouping notes by topic or organizing them in chronological order. This will make it easier to review and synthesize your annotations when you need to.

Avoid overusing sticky notes: While sticky notes can be a great tool for annotation, it’s important to avoid overusing them. Stick to marking the most important parts of the text and avoid cluttering the book with too many notes.

Use Symbols and Abbreviations

Develop a system of symbols and abbreviations to make your annotations more concise and efficient. For example, use a star to indicate an important point or an exclamation mark to indicate surprise.

What is a Book Annotation Kit and How Do you Make One?

What is a Book Annotation Kit and How Do you Make One

A book annotation kit is a tool that allows you to create annotations for a book. It typically includes a software program and a set of instructions.

Annotation requires selecting a text. Subsequently, you may opt to emphasize the text, underline it, or attach a remark. After producing your annotation, you can preserve it and distribute it with others.

Book annotation kits can be used for a variety of purposes, such as reading comprehension, research, and writing. They can also be used to create collaborative notes between students and teachers.

What Books Should You Annotate?

A book annotation kit is a great way to keep track of your reading. It enables you to document your contemplations and perceptions about a book as you read it, and then revisit them later. You can use a kit to make an annotated bibliography for a research paper, or simply to keep track of your own reading.

To make a book annotation kit, you will need:

  • A notebook or journal
  • A pen or pencil
  • Highlighters or post-it notes (optional)

Begin by reading a book. While reading, pay attention to anything that catches your attention as intriguing, significant, or thought-provoking. These might include excerpts, personas, concepts, or anything else that stands out to you.

Next, open your notebook or journal and find a blank page. On this page, document the book’s title, author, and page number where you encountered the excerpt, persona, or concept that you wish to recollect. Then, write a short annotation about why this element was important to you.

Jot down the title of the book, the author, and the page number where you discovered the excerpt, persona, or concept that you wish to recall on this page.

If you want to, you can highlight the passages, characters, or themes that you annotate in your book. This will help you to find them again easily. You can also use post-it notes to mark these elements.

After completing the book and producing your annotations, you will possess a valuable resource to revisit whenever necessary. Whenever you want to remember something from a book, you can simply consult your book annotation kit.

What is the Difference Between Annotating Books for Fun and for Learning?

What is the Difference Between Annotating Books for Fun and for Learning

When done for fun, annotations can help readers engage with a text on a deeper level, making the reading experience more enjoyable. When done for learning, annotations can help readers better understand and remember the information in a text.

There are a few key differences between annotating books for fun and for learning. First, when annotating for fun, readers can choose to focus on any aspect of the text that interests them. They may want to add their own thoughts and interpretations, or make connections to other things they’ve read.

In contrast, when annotating for learning, readers will want to focus on the most important information in the text. This may include identifying key concepts, main ideas, and supporting details.

Another difference is that annotations for fun can be less formal than those for learning. Readers can use whatever style or format they prefer, and there are no set rules to follow.

When annotating for learning, however, it’s important to use a consistent format and include all the relevant information. This will make it easier to review the annotations later on.

Overall, annotations can be a great way to enhance any reading experience. By taking the time to add notes, comments, and thoughts, readers can get more out of a text, whether they’re reading for fun or for learning.

What Do You Annotate In Fiction Books?

When you’re reading a fiction book, there are a lot of different things you can annotate. For example, you might want to highlight important plot points, or make notes about the characters’ development. It could be beneficial to record your personal opinions and perceptions about the book as you progress through it.

The crucial aspect is that you are interacting with the text in a manner that holds significance to you, regardless of what you opt to annotate. Annotation can help you keep track of your thoughts, notice patterns, and make connections that you might not have otherwise. Engaging in this practice is an exceptional approach to enrich your comprehension of a book and can even augment the pleasure of re-reading it.

Here are some specific things you might annotate in a fiction book:

  • The author’s use of figurative language
  • The development of the plot
  • The relationships between the characters
  • The changes in the characters’ personalities
  • The setting of the story
  • The theme of the book

How to Annotate a Book For a Friend?

How to Annotate a Book For a Friend

Assuming you would like tips on how to annotate a book for a friend:

Giving a buddy a book can make it hard to decide what to write in it. It’s important to ensure that the annotations you pen down are individualized and hold significance for your friend. However, it’s equally crucial not to divulge too much about the plot or ruin the book for them. Here are some tips on how to annotate a book for a friend:

  • Write a personal note on the inside cover. This is a great place to write a quote that your friend loves, or to simply say why you are giving them this book.
  • If there is a specific scene or character that you know your friend will love, highlight it and leave a note next to it.
  • If there are any themes in the book that you believe will resonate with your friend, make a record of them. For instance, if the book revolves around grief, and you are aware that your friend is undergoing a difficult phase, inscribe a note about how you wish the book could aid them.

Annotating a book for a friend is an excellent approach to personalize the gift and reassure them that you are thinking of them. With these recommendations, you can pen down annotations that hold significance and will enhance their experience of the book.

How to Annotate Books for Fun?

Annotations are a great way to add depth and understanding to your reading. They can also be a fun way to interact with the text on a personal level. Here are some tips on how to annotation books for fun:

  • Highlight some favorite quotes
  • Take note of which characterizations you found successful or unsuccessful.
  • Highlight parts of the book that made you feel something.
  • If you didn’t like something, explain why.
  • Sensory details that drew your attention
  • Draw something inspired by the book on one of the pages.
  • Did the story inspire you in any way? Write it directly on the pages.
  • Note any motifs that come to mind while reading.
  • Is the author employing a trope that you like or dislike? Take note of this!

Book Annotation Color Key

The Book Annotation Color Key is a great way to keep track of your annotations while reading. This key will help you to quickly and easily identify which annotations are which. Here is a quick guide to the colors and their meanings:

  • Blue – Important Points
  • Red – Questions
  • Green – Comments
  • Yellow – Highlights

By utilizing this method, you can effortlessly revisit the most significant portions of the book that you wish to retain in your memory. This tool is highly beneficial for students, teachers, and individuals who wish to monitor their contemplations while reading.

Is it bad to annotate books?

It is a great way to keep track of and organize the thoughts that you have read in the books you own. You will have something to refer back to later. It can also be a good way to practice your analytical and critical thinking skills by making notes.

How do you annotate reading?

Identify the main thesis. In the margin, underline the main thesis (or the main argument or viewpoint), and then write it in your own words. Continue to read the first or second sentence of each body paragraph. Highlight the main point of each paragraph, and then summarize it in the margin using your own words.

What are the 3 types of annotations?

There are three types of annotation: summary, evaluation, and descriptive.

See more:  https://www.bibliography.com/examples/annotated-bibliography-writing-guide-with-examples

What is an example of annotation?

Frequency: An annotation is an additional note that explains a topic in a text. An example of an annotation is the definition of an archaic term found in the Bible. It can be found at the bottom of this page. An explanation or critical note.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your reading comprehension and understanding of what you’re reading, try annotating your books. This simple technique can make a big difference in how much you get out of your reading.

Plus, it’s a great way to keep track of your thoughts and ideas as you read. So give it a try next time you crack open a book!

Read more: Best Books On How To Win The Lottery [2022]

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annotation worksheet high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

Annotating guide, non-fiction annotation , Annotation worksheet , High School

annotation guide for high school


annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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annotation guide for high school

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  1. How to Teach Annotation in High School

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  1. How to Annotate Texts

    This guide contains resources that explain the benefits of annotating texts, provide annotation tools, and suggest approaches for diverse kinds of texts; the last section includes lesson plans and exercises for teachers. Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide: Annotation Fundamentals How to Start Annotating

  2. PDF What is an Annotation? Annotation Basics

    Annotation Guide What is an Annotation? An annotation is a critical or explanatory note (or body of notes) added to a text. Essentially, annotations are an ongoing conversation between the reader and the text, so the reader can achieve a deeper understanding of what they are reading. Annotation Basics How can I mark the text? Highlight

  3. Teaching Student Annotation: Constructing Meaning Through Connections

    Making Annotations: A User's Guide: Use this resource guide to help students make connections with text through definition, analysis of author purpose, paraphrasing, personal identification, explaining historical context, and more. From Theory to Practice I'll Have Mine Annotated, Please: Helping Students Make Connections with Text (Brown)

  4. Teaching Annotation in High School

    Step 1: Create purpose Establish clear prompts to engage students. The teacher or the students can preselect these prompts, but the guided focus can be the first step to making meaningful observations. The more specific the prompts, the better.

  5. 7 Strategies for Teaching Students How to Annotate

    1. Teach the Basics of Good Annotation Help your students understand that annotation is simply the process of thoughtful reading and making notes as they study a text. Start with some basic forms of annotation: highlighting a phrase or sentence and including a comment circling a word that needs defining

  6. PDF Annotating the Text

    Annotations are written notes that show you are thinking about and engaging with the text. Insightful Annotations Summarize a section or paragraph and highlight supporting details. Make an inference and highlight the supporting details. Explain how the title connects to the text. Make text to self-text-world connections.

  7. PDF Annotating Texts

    To annotate is to examine and question a text, to add critical notes. You can do this with fiction and non-fiction. For example with fiction, good readers do more than just read a text for plot, they think about the text, interact with a text, make connections between the text and the "real world."

  8. Annotating Texts

    What is annotation? Annotation can be: A systematic summary of the text that you create within the document A key tool for close reading that helps you uncover patterns, notice important words, and identify main points An active learning strategy that improves comprehension and retention of information Why annotate?

  9. How to Do a Close Reading

    Close Reading Fundamentals How to Choose a Passage to Close-Read How to Approach a Close Reading How to Annotate a Passage How to Improve Your Close Reading How to Practice Close Reading How to Incorporate Close Readings into an Essay How to Teach Close Reading Additional Resources for Advanced Students Close Reading Fundamentals

  10. PDF Making Annotations: A User's Guide

    Making Annotations: A User's Guide As you work with your text, consider all of the ways that you can connect with what you are reading. Here are some suggestions that will help you with your annotations: Define words or slang; make the words real with examples from your experiences; explore why the author would have used a particular word or ...

  11. 5 Simple Steps to Teach Text Annotation in the Secondary Classroom

    Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4. As students work through the text, they will complete steps 2-4 until they finish annotating the entire document. As students near the end of the document, they will become more confident in their annotating abilities. While annotating all different types of text generally follows these steps, there are a few different ...

  12. PDF Name: AP Language

    An Annotation Guide Note-Taking vs. Annotation Most serious readers take notes of some kind when they are carefully considering a text, but many readers are too casual about their note-taking. Later they realize they have taken notes that are incomplete or too random, and then they laboriously start over, re-notating an earlier reading.

  13. Back to School With Annotation: 10 Ways to Annotate With Students

    You can guide students through the reading with your annotations, offering context and possible interpretations. This allows you to be the Norton editor of your course readings, but attentive to the particular themes of your course or local contexts of your classroom community.

  14. Union Mine High School

    To differentiate, teachers can annotate some of the more difficult parts of a text to aid the students, begin the annotation with the entire class to get them started, or form heterogeneous or homogeneous groups based on skill levels and the teacher's discretion for the best way to proceed.


    Suggestions for annotating text can include labeling and interpreting literary devices (metaphor, simile, imagery, personification, symbol, alliteration, metonymy, synecdoche, etc.); labeling and explaining the writer's rhetorical devices and elements of style (tone, diction, syntax, narrative pace, use of figurative language, etc.); or labeling...

  16. Results for annotation guide high school

    Results for annotation guide high school 150 + results Sort by: Relevance View: List Common Core Close Reading (The High School Annotation Survival Guide) Created by English and Journalism Teacher Leader Close reading a text is an essential skill to teach, especially in a high school English class following a Common Core aligned curriculum.

  17. Writing to Learn History: Annotations and Mini-Writes

    In annotating a text, students become active readers, asking and answering historical questions, making connections both to prior knowledge and other texts, and summarizing—all widely endorsed reading comprehension strategies. Mini-writes give students the chance to think through a topic.

  18. High School Annotation Symbols Teaching Resources

    4.7. (15) $3.95. PDF. Activity. Tips and teaching strategies for easy annotating! These annotation guide bookmarks help middle and high school students understand how and what to annotate and why it is important. They are perfect for class novels and independent reading assignments! Just copy, clip, and use as a bookmark or attach to the inside ...

  19. Annotating Text Strategies That Enhance Close Reading [Free ...

    Annotating a text is when the reader "marks up" a text to indicate places of importance or something they don't understand. Sometimes students annotate by circling a word, underlining a phrase or highlighting a sentence. Annotating also includes writing notes in the margin; these notes might be thoughts or questions about the text.

  20. 6 Remarkable Ideas for Meaningful Collaborative Annotations

    Simply put, collaborative annotations, sometimes called social annotations, are a form of collaborative notes in the margins of a text created by a group of people reading the same text. This is a great way to bring groups into close reading exercises in high school English classes. Collaborative annotations can be done the "old fashioned way ...

  21. Research Guides: Reading and Study Strategies: Annotating a Text

    You can annotate by hand or by using document software. You can also annotate on post-its if you have a text you do not want to mark up. As you annotate, use these strategies to make the most of your efforts: Include a key or legend on your paper that indicates what each marking is for, and use a different marking for each type of information ...

  22. How To Annotate Books? Best Full Guide [2022]

    11 Aug It is a great way to keep track and organize the thoughts that you have read in the books that you own. You can refer back to your notes later. It is also a good way to practice critical and analytical thinking. How do you annotate books? Penn Book will show you how to annotate books in detail. Let's get started.

  23. Results for annotation worksheet high school

    Here are 18 annotation activities that can be used at Middle or High School level to annotate anything from poetry to non-fiction. Included: # 18 Annotation Tags ready to be printed, laminated, punched and tagged together. # 18 Table plates ready to be printed (card stock is best), folded and p. Subjects: