Reading, Highlighting, Annotating, and Responding

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Reading, Highlighting, Annotating, and Responding:

  • Everything you need to complete the Article of the Week/BiWeekly Article assignments.
  • Strategies for higher understanding of fiction and non-fiction texts.
  • Mrs. Barbara Tollison
  • WSI, E9 College Prep
  • San Marcos High School


  • When you read nonfiction, use overviewing, a form of skimming and scanning the text before reading. Focus on the following to overview the text:
  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Noting characteristics of text length and structure
  • Noting important headings and subheadings
  • Determining what to read and in what order
  • Determining what to pay careful attention to

Class Activity: Overviewing

  • Take two or three minutes to overview the article I have given you. Check off the overviewing techniques as you look it over, thinking about what is important. Write your top three at the top of your page.
  • When I say to, turn to your partner and tell him or her the three most important things about this article. Then listen to and write down your partner’s three if they are different from your own.


  • To effectively highlight text, readers need to:
  • read the text,
  • think about it
  • make conscious decisions about what you need to remember and learn.
  • You can’t possibly remember everything. You need to sort important information from less important details. You need to pick out the main ideas and notice supporting details, and you need to let go of unimportant information.


  • The following guidelines can be used for highlighting:
    • Look carefully at the first and last line of each paragraph. Important information is often contained there.
    • Highlight only necessary words and phrases, not entire sentences.
    • Don’t get thrown off by interesting details. Although they are fascinating, they often obscure important information.
    • Make notes in the margin to emphasize a pertinent highlighted word or phrase.


Clues to tell you what is important:

  • When a word is italicized, a paragraph begins with a boldface heading, or the text says “Most important, …” readers need to stop and take notice.
  • Titles headings, framed text, and captions help focus readers as they sort important information from less important details.
  • A photograph and caption sometimes synthesize the most important information on the page, rendering a complete reading of the text unnecessary.

Clues to tell you what is important:

  • Illustrations and photographs Illustrations play a prominent role in nonfiction to enhance reading comprehension. Nonfiction trade books and magazines brim with colorful photographs that capture readers and carry them deeper into meaning.
  • Graphics Diagrams, cut-aways, cross-sections, overlays, distribution maps, word bubbles, tables, graphs, and charts graphically inform nonfiction readers of important information.
  • Text organizers like the index, preface, table of contents, glossary, and appendix.

Clues to tell you what is important:

  • Nonfiction features are user-friendly. The following features are just some to pay close attention to:
  •  Fonts and effects such as titles, headings, boldface print, color print, italics, bullets, captions, and labels, signal importance in text.
  • Cue words and phrases Nonfiction writing often includes text cues that signal importance. Signal words, like stop signs, warn readers to halt and pay attention Writers choose phrases such as for examples, for instance, in fact, in conclusion, most important, but, therefore, on the other hand, and such as so that readers will take note.

Class Activity: Highlighting

  • On your own: carefully read the entire article that I have given you. As you read, think about text clues that tell you what parts of the article are important. Highlight some of the most important ideas in each paragraph.

Class Activity: Highlighting

  • With a partner: trade your highlighter with a person sitting near you who has a highlighter of a different color.
  • Talking to your partner, have him or her tell you what he or she highlighted.
  • In his or her marker, highlight what he or she highlighted on your paper in the new color (unless you already had that highlighted).

Metacognitive Markers

  • MI
  • Main Idea—What is the essential argument of the piece? What is it the writer/speaker is saying? There should only be one MI. At the end of the text, summarize the MI in your own words.
  • KD
  • Key Details—These are pieces of evidence given in the text that support the main idea. Facts, statistics, quotes from an authority on the subject, etc. In the margins, discuss how this KD supports the MI.
  • IV
  • Important Vocab—These are words that are pertinent to the topic. You might also label words of which you do not previously know the meaning. Define these words in the margins.
  • RW
  • Repeated Words/Ideas—These are ideas/words that show up over and over. In the margins, discuss why these repeated words are important to this piece.
  • ??
  • I have a question—Are you confused by something? Does the text leave you questioning? Do you need more explanation? Label the parts of the text that you need to discuss further.
  • !!
  • I am intrigued—Did something strike you as interesting? Did you have an “ah-ha” moment? Did something surprise you? Label parts of the text that you found intriguing.

Annotation: Taking Notes on What You Read

  • You should know that highlighting and underlining alone is not annotation! Knowing that a passage is important is not the same as knowing WHY it is important
  • Annotating takes a long time. This will make you a slower reader, but a more conscientious one, and ultimately, a more sophisticated one. Ideally, you should evolve to the point that it is actually a little awkward for you to read without annotating!

Annotation: Taking Notes on What You Read

  • A question I’m often asked by students is, “How much annotating is enough?” This, to an English teacher, is like asking how long an essay needs to be. My answer is going to be the same, and sadly, just as vague and irritating: as much/as long as it needs to be. Admittedly, I’m most impressed by copious annotations in a text. But I am also interested in the quality, thought, and sophistication behind your annotations.
  • Also, you should know that I actually read your annotations, and your penmanship is quite important. If I can’t read what you write (and I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to handwriting) I get cranky.


  • This seems basic, but can actually be really helpful when you are going back through a text to remember and locate where something happened (like when you are writing an essay, for example). Jot down in the margins key words or phrases that simply summarize/paraphrase what just happened.
  • For those of you who are mathematically inclined, this type of annotation should make up only about 20% of your total annotating of a text. Summarizing and paraphrasing should not dominate your notes; rather, they should function to help you orient yourself as to the basic action of the plot.

Personal Reactions and Questions

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of this type of engagement with a text. If something you read strikes you as funny, intense, confusing, enlightening, etc. feel free to honor those reactions and record them in the margins! Not only is this perfectly acceptable, but it indicates that you are paying attention, engaging with the text, and internalizing what you read.
  • If you have a specific question about what you are reading, write that question down. Research it on your own or ask your teacher in class the next day.

Personal Reactions and Questions

  • If what you read reminds you of something else, whether that be another text you’ve read, a movie you saw, something you heard once, a person you know, a personal situation, a memory, etc. honor that connection and record your reaction. This is just further evidence of your internalization of the text.
  • Furthermore, connecting, comparing, contrasting texts is an important skill, and one that will be valuable to you in college, where your professors expect you to be able to do this and draw from your previous experience and knowledge.

Specific Notes on Non-Fiction

    • How does the writer present the argument and prove it?
    • Think about the writer’s argument and tone and how these are achieved.
    • Analyze the diction (word choice) and syntax (word order) used to express point of view.
    • Look at sentence structure.
    • Consider the writer’s purpose: to explain, to persuade, to describe, to entertain, to editorialize, etc and how he or she achieves this.
    • Define any unknown terms.
    • Be aware of rhetorical devices and examine their effectiveness.
    • Also, consider any logical fallacies (bad logic or wrong thinking) in the author’s arguments. Be aware of and record your personal reactions and questions.

Preparing to Write the Response

  • Look through at what you highlighted and annotated. Underline two sentences, quotations, or ideas that you think are the most interesting parts of the article.
  • These will be your two quotations from the article. When you write your response, you will put these two ideas into quotation marks and make a parenthetical citation for each of them.

The writing assignment EVERY TIME:

  • On a sheet of notebook paper or on a computer, write a three-paragraph response to the article that includes correct citations, at least two quotes from the article, and your opinions on the topic being discussed. There are excellent examples of how to do this posted on the moodle site if you want to see how to do this.

Your paper should look like:

  • Barbara Tollison
  • WSI E9 Period 1
  • August 24, 2012 Biweekly Article 1
  • Bibliographical Citation: Golodryga, Bianna, and Meredith Frost. "Bullied Teen Who Got Facial Plastic Surgery Ready to Forgive Tormentors, But Won't Forget - ABC News." - Breaking News, Latest News & Top Video News - ABC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2012. .
  • Begin your essay here_____________________________________
  • ____________________________________________________________
  • ____________________________________________________________
  • ____________________________________________________________
  • _________________________.
  • _______________________________________________________
  • _______________________ (Golodryga and Frost). ________________________
  • ____________________________________________________________
  • ______________________________________________.______________
  • _____________. __________________________________________. ___
  • ________________________ (Golodryga and Frost). ________________
  • ____________________________________________. _______________
  • ____________________________________________________________

The first paragraph includes:

  • Include in your three-paragraph response: 1. The genre, author and title (usually in the first or second sentence)
  • Example: In the article titled "Bullied Teen Who Got Facial Plastic Surgery Ready to Forgive Tormentors, But Won't Forget” writers Meredith Frost and Bianna Golodryga report on a teenage girl who underwent plastic surgery in order to change her facial features and stop other students from bullying her.

The first paragraph continues:

  • A brief (two or three sentences; this is not a summary assignment!) explanation of the main points of the article or column. Tell the facts that are mentioned and the writer’s opinions stated about the facts.
  • Write two or three sentences about your initial thoughts and reactions to the article’s topic.

The Second Paragraph:

  • At least two quotations (a quotation is anything written in the article – it is not always someone being quoted in the article) from the article that shows a fact or opinion that you will comment on. For each quotation you use, you will write two or three sentence discussing what it means to you and your opinions about it.
  • Example: The suffering that Nadia faced daily in school is especially notable in that she states, "[The bullies] are the ones who pressured me into getting the surgery,"( It is sad that any person could be treated so badly that she felt she had to change herself so much. Surgeries are not always safe, and she should not have had to make a life-changing decision based on how others were treating her.

The Third (and final) Paragraph

  • Some examples from things you have observed in your life, in the lives of people you know, or in the news that relate to this topic. Give your opinions about the problems discussed in the article, solutions that might have been suggested by the author, or solutions that you think would work.
  • Example: This story really struck me as unfair. While I am glad that Nadia was able to make herself look better, I think it is terrible that she had to make such an important health decision based on bad treatment by other kids. I have seen girls and boys who are bullied because of how they look or dress or act, and I have also been bullied myself. I would probably have done the same thing as Nadia did if I was in her position, but I still wish she didn’t have to do it. We should all think more about the effect of mean words and be more careful of what we say to others.

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