Annotation Strategies for Deeper Learning

Educator teaches effective reading strategies that promote close reading and deeper learning.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

The educator helps students create annotations that are selective, metacognitive, textually dependent, and useful.

Method Components

Expert readers employ several key strategies to monitor their comprehension and engage with the text as they read: summarizing, asking and answering questions, concept mapping, activating prior knowledge, and recognizing patterns. Non-expert readers greatly benefit from explicit instruction in these strategies, particularly when the strategies are used to study meaningful course content.

Annotation is one of the best ways to instill these reading strategies and make them visible for both students and teachers. Because annotation encourages students to read texts closely and actively, it is one of the primary ways to deepen learning.

Components of Successful Annotation

  • Selective: Annotating requires students to select key pieces of text for analysis. Students should be reading for a purpose and using annotations to focus their attention.
  • Metacognitive: Annotating allows students to track how they are thinking as they read. Gaining insight into what students struggle with and how they construct knowledge is useful to both the student and the teacher.
  • Textually dependent: Annotations should reference the text and interpret what the author is trying to say. Annotations that merely reflect personal opinions have been shown to be less effective in developing reading comprehension.
  • Useful: Annotating should help students organize and retain information that is pertinent for class discussion and further study.


Educator explains and models key annotation strategies through a think-aloud, projecting a document for the class and annotating it or sharing photocopies of an annotated document. The annotation strategies will vary according to the objectives of the assignment and the particular text being read.

Key strategies to highlight:

  • Summarizing
  • Questioning
  • Predicting
  • Making connections
  • Finding the main idea and key details
  • Outlining text structure
  • Identifying and defining new words


Educator asks students to annotate a text on their own with specific guidelines that target the objective of the reading and the type of text being annotated. Students may be asked to summarize key passages, identify examples of figurative language, take note when they do not understand the meaning of the text, and/or generate questions for discussion using specific passages from the text.

Educator then assesses these annotations, either by circulating the room, collecting students’ annotations and giving written feedback, or by prompting students to share their annotations in a group setting. Educator uses annotations to inform instruction by investigating what students found most compelling in the text, what they were confused by, etc.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Adler, M. J. & Van Doren, C. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (rev. ed.) New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1972.
  • Duke, N. & Pearson, P. “Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension.” What Research Has to Say About Reading, 3rd ed., Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2002, pp. 205–242.
  • National Reading Panel (US), National Institute of Child Health, and Human Development (US).“Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction.” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, 2000.
    Comprehension Part II Text Comprehension Instruction p. 260
  • Porter-O’Donnell, Carol. “Beyond the Yellow Highlighter: Teaching Annotation Skills to Improve Reading Comprehension.” English Journal, vol. 93, no. 5, National Council of Teachers of English, 2004, pp. 82–89.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

The items in this following section detail what must be submitted for evaluation. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1, 3, and 4 and a äóìYesäó for each component in Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(450-word limit total):

Activity Description: What text(s) were students annotating, and what was the deeper learning objective?

Activity Evaluation: How did you know that students were effectively annotating the text(s)?

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

Please submit evidence toward your demonstration of competency in teaching effective annotation strategies. This may be in a photocopy of student annotations from an assignment, a copy of your instructional guidelines for annotations, or a video of your class annotating a text together.

Part 3. Student Reflection

Please submit two student-created reflections on their experience of using annotation strategies. Use the following questions as a guide (200-word limit for each reflection):

  • How did the annotation strategies help you to better understand and engage with the text?
  • How did the annotation strategies better prepare you for class discussions and subsequent writing assignments?

Part 4. Educator Reflection

Provide a reflection on what you learned using the following questions as a guide (200-word limit):

  • What was the impact of having students annotate their texts?
  • How will you use students’ annotations to shape and inform your instruction in the future?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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