Learning Center


Go Beyond Highlighting—Expect Why-Lighting

February 18, 2019

Readers increase comprehension by tracking their thinking while reading a text. This may include taking notes or annotating the text. Note-taking is simply lifting important information out of the text and placing it onto a graphic organizer or a separate piece of paper. Annotating includes highlighting words and details within the text and noting their corresponding thoughts in the nearby margin space.
Although annotation isn’t a new concept, often it is reduced to little more than a set of codes and symbols that students are required to use while reading. They may have to underline, circle, asterisk, or number certain information. Although this is a great first-step to annotating, using only codes and symbols is not enough. Here’s the problem–When returning to this text in the future, the reader will see the question mark next to the detail but not likely recall his actual question. He will see the numbers next to several details sprinkled throughout the text but not remember what they all had in common. He will see the circled vocabulary but not recollect its meaning. This is the difference between just marking or highlighting a text versus truly annotating it.

Next to each code, number, or symbol should be a notation. These additional notes made during reading will remind the reader of his thoughts, questions, and connections after reading. This combination of marking what is important and why it is important is the secret to strong annotations and deeper comprehension. This goes beyond teaching students to simply highlight important ideas, now they are learning to why-light.

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