Simplify Annotation with Marks, Codes, & Abbreviations


Simplify Annotation with Marks, Codes, & Abbreviations

Posted on March 11, 2014

Simplify Annotation with Marks, Codes, & Abbreviations

We most often associate note-taking while reading as lifting key words and phrases from the text and jotting them on separate paper or a graphic organizer.

Reader Annotate Their Notes

However, another skill students need is how to annotate a text. It's a form of "talking" to the text while reading it. Although the reader isn't speaking out loud, he is recording his own unique thoughts and questions right on the passage itself.

Beyond simply highlighting, this kind of text interaction can include various marks and codes.

  • UNDERLINING: Underline (or highlight) all unfamiliar words. Later you can come back and write a synonym or brief definition of these words in the margins.
  • ARROWS: Draw arrows within the margins to show how ideas relate to one another. (Maybe how supporting details connect to the main idea.)
  • NUMBERS: Use numbers to indicate steps in a process, lists, important details, etc.
  • QUESTION MARK: If something in the text causes you to ask a question, make a note of it in the margin.
  • STAR or ASTERISK: Use this symbol if something stands out as important or interesting.
  • EXCLAMATION MARK: Represent points you disagree with by writing an exclamation mark in the margin. (In a few words, jot down your contrary thought.)
  • ABBREVIATIONS: Use your text-message spelling as shorthand notes (e.g., humorous parts with LOL).
  • MARGIN NOTES: If something in the text causes you to have a comment, make a note of it in the margin. (This may include quick nutshell-summary notes.)

It may be helpful to show students your teachers' edition with all your personal markings, notations, abbreviations, and symbols. Reveal what you marked, how you marked it, and why you marked it.

It's important to know that some readers mark the text extensively, while others only mark the parts they think are important or problematic. It's not important how much students annotate, only that they do annotate. The act of marking the page while reading makes it more likely that students will read closely and attentively.

TIP: If your students cannot write in the book, then have students track their thinking on sticky notes adhered to the text pages.

TIP: If your students predominantly read digital text (off iPADS, laptops, or another wireless device), then they need instruction on how to use the digital tools to annotate.

Readers who "talk" to themselves are engaged with the text. They are using their Thinking Voice and are more apt to comprehend the passage. Although annotation slows down the reading process, it increases comprehension.


Students work in pairs to read and annotateStudents read about what makes a good reader

Jodie Pulciani of Madison Elementary (Lombard, IL) used this handout with her fifth graders. They worked in pairs to read and annotate text about what makes a good leader.


Thanks so much! It helped me. Now I understand much better, and it makes more sense now.

Posted by Austin on October 7, 2018 @ 6:44 pm