Learning Plans & Activities
Highlighting, Annotating, and Notetaking: Guided Practice

In this lesson, students will apply strategies for annotation and notetaking while reading selected texts. A video tutorial provides a preface to help students see the value of notetaking and learn about how to personalize existing techniques for their own styles and coursework. Additional handouts help students engage in the process of using their own words to summarize texts for the best comprehension results. Librarians can coordinate with classroom instructors to select materials and support students as they interact with readings.


English language arts

Social studies




English teacher

Social studies teacher



Students will learn and apply different annotation and notetaking strategies to increase active engagement with outside source materials.


Video tutorial from ABC-CLIO available at https://players.brightcove.net/2566261579001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6095650270001

Handout with student examples and exercises (online or hard copy):


Three class periods


AASL National School Library Standards

A.III.1. Demonstrating desire to broaden and deepen understandings.

B.I.2. Devising and implementing a plan to fill knowledge gaps.

D.I.1. Continually seeking knowledge.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

Instructional Procedure

Day 1:

Have students watch the video tutorial entitled "Highlighting, Annotating, and Notetaking" and share the provided handout.

As a class, read the provided short article (Exercise 1). Students then reread the article again on their own and use a pen or highlighter to underline what they see as the most important content. Remind students that 1: They do not need explain their choices regarding why certain portions were worth highlighting more than others, and should not engage in annotation yet, and 2: They should highlight no more than 15% (approximately 130 words) of the text.

After students have finished highlighting, conduct a short discussion to help students discover what governed their choices. Did they highlight concrete information, quotes or statistics, or broader idea statements? Help students find patterns in their thought process; for example, did they tend to highlight statements at the top or bottom of paragraphs?

Outcome of Day 1: Students will understand what they gain from both careful initial highlighting and the awareness of their own reading habits.

Day 2:

Either as homework or in class, move on to Exercise 2 and the next article (alternatively, student can continue working with the article in Exercise 1). During this round, students annotate the article by writing short notations directly on the article. For direction, provide concrete guidelines in the form of categories. For example:

  • Write three questions in the margins in response to specific sentences.
  • Put three exclamation points next to ideas that feel important to you.
  • Put happy or sad faces next to statements that you either agree or don't agree with.

In class, students have an opportunity to discuss their responses and annotations in small groups to see where their annotations are similar and where they are different. Make sure students work together to determine why each group member responded to the group as they did.

Outcome of Day 2: Students will gain a stronger understanding of both the sample text's meaning and the author's intention, in addition to stronger awareness of how different readers respond to material.

Day 3:

In Exercise 3, students can move onto the final article (or continue working with one of the previous two). Assign students the task of highlighting and annotating the selected text individually at home prior to class. Then, in the classroom, students continue working individually to use their work to write their own outline of the text using the provided handout. It will be important to tell students that they cannot simply copy/paste sentences into the handout itself, but they must summarize the important ideas from the article in their own words. Students can share their resulting outlines with peers to see where their outlines do and don't align. In the final class discussion, students can identify where they were in agreement regarding the articles main thesis and key statements, and where their responses differ.

Outcome of Day 3: Students will emerge from the exercise with greater confidence in their foundational and critical reading skills. Students will be able to employ more effective notetaking strategies to help them both retain information from a text and respond to it more actively in later analyses.


Students can work through each stage (highlighting, annotating, notetaking) alone or in collaboration. Educators can use the provided articles or apply this three-exercise process to materials from existing course curriculum. Librarians can collaborate with classroom teachers to provide direct instruction, support, and additional reading materials that can serve the larger learning goals of the class itself.

Students can either work intensively with one chosen short article or move through additional texts as they add each new stage of the notetaking process.


Students will be assessed on their ability to:

  • Draw important ideas and concepts from a text
  • Demonstrate comprehension of level-appropriate material
  • Engage in critical thinking skills in response to a text
  • Show awareness of their own reading and notetaking skills and needs

Additional Resources

Black, Brian C. "The United States Needs to Define an Alternative Future," Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society, ABC-CLIO, issues.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1816621.

Lewis, Susan. "An International Solution," Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society, ABC-CLIO, issues.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1990184.

Madison, Ed. "'Fake News': a Wake-Up Call to Journalists and the Public," Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society, ABC-CLIO, issues.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2073285.

Seth Taylor

MLA Citation Taylor, Seth. "Highlighting, Annotating, and Notetaking: Guided Practice." School Library Connection, December 2019, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2233189?childId=2233190&topicCenterId=1955265&tab=1.

View all citation styles

Entry ID: 2233190

Back to Top