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Engage Writers with Highlighter Tape

march 8, 2010

Engage Writers with Highlighter Tape

West Side Middle School (Union City, IN) seventh grade teacher Carla Durham likes to engage her students with fun reader and writer tools in the classroom. One tool that she has found many uses for is highlighter tape.

This self-stick tape has the same properties as sticky notes, in that it adheres to paper but is removable and reusable. The difference is highlighter tape is transparent and can literally “highlight” text in a variety of colors.

Highlighter Tape

In one instance Carla had her students pull a previous written persuasive piece from each of their writing folders. Then, using different highlighter tape colors, students were asked to highlight different elements within their drafts and assess what revisions were needed.

1. Students first highlighted in pink their attention-grabbing sentences, including the strongest argument in their persuasive essay. (Did they have any?)

2. In blue, students had to highlight the sentence(s) that acknowledges the opposition’s point of view. (Did they include this?)

3. Using the green highlighter tape, students then marked the strong points in their conclusions. (Did they end strong?)

Carla explained that the colored tape helped the key components of a persuasive paper stand out for students. After students identified each component, Carla selected a few students to share their sentences with the class.

Carla uses highlighter tape when teaching grammar and conventions, too. She recognizes that when teaching new convention concepts, it’s powerful for students to first find examples in their previous writings. “They are often already doing what I am introducing; they just did not know it had a name. This makes them much more comfortable with new skills,” Carla explained. One activity may be to have students highlight adjectives, adverbs, proper nouns, and/or compound nouns in different colors. She has also asked students to find simple, compound, and complex sentences in their writings, marking them with different colors.

In addition to a functional instructional tool, Carla points out that the highlighter tape just makes the process more fun! “The kids loved the tape,” she said. Her plan is to reuse the highlighter tape every week. (She had the students save their tape by adhering it to the inside cover of their LA book where it could be found easily later.)

The uses for highlighter tape are limitless. Here are a couple more suggestions:

  • Have students highlight the topic sentence/main idea sentence in each paragraph or section of text.
  • Have students highlight action verbs in one color and to be/linking verbs in a second color. Discuss how many more action verbs are in the mentor text than verbs of being. Have students then use the same color coding to highlight the verbs used in their own writing. Do they have enough action verbs?
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