Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Annotating a Text

Style and Syntax

K20 Center, Polly Base, Shelby Blackwood, Teresa Lansford, Shannon Donoghue | Published: May 18th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course A.P. Language and Composition, American Literature
  • Time Frame Time Frame 100 minutes
  • Duration More 1-2 class period(s)


Annotating a text allows students to process information about an author’s purpose and point of view. In this lesson, students will learn techniques for analyzing a text to create an argumentative paragraph related to an author’s style. This lesson may be adapted to fit any text with a particular style and/or features that teachers would like students to analyze. While this lesson is currently aligned only to 10th-grade standards, it would be appropriate to teach in grades 9 through 12, adjusting standards as needed.

Essential Question(s)

How does an author's writing style give meaning to a text?



Students complete a one-sentence quick-write exercise, using thematically related words from a provided word bank.


Students are provided with a text containing strong stylistic features, including satire and hyperbole. Then, students are provided with a reading prompt and read the text independently or with a partner, without making any marks.


Model an annotation strategy on a document camera, walking students through the thought process out loud as the text is marked.


Students continue marking the text (or targeted passages of the text) independently.


Students revise their quick-write sentences to reflect a new meaning uncovered in the text. Finally, students write a claim, evidence, reasoning paragraph to reflect on the essential question.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Annotated Text Poster (attached; optional 1 per student)

  • Dashing Through the Snow or Don’t Box Me In by Dave Barry (attached; 1 per student)

  • Dashing Through the Snow Word Bank (attached; two per page; optional 1 per student)

  • Dashing Through the Snow Teacher Key (attached)

  • Don’t Box Me In Word Bank (attached; two per page; optional 1 per student)

  • Don’t Box Me In Teacher Key (attached)

  • Document camera/projector

  • Dry erase document holders

  • Dry erase markers

  • Pens/pencils

  • Highlighters

  • Paper


Slides 1–2 from the attached Lesson Slides are introductory slides to use as needed.

Display slides 3–4. On the board where learning objectives are posted, or by reading aloud, pose the essential question of the lesson: How does an author's writing style give meaning to a text? Explain to students that essential questions are very broad and cannot be answered immediately. Additionally, explain that students will be able to confidently answer the essential question by the end of the lesson.

Display slide 5 or 6 depending on which article you chose to use. In order to help students access their prior knowledge, the slide provides students with a word bank of 5-10 keywords focused around a central theme in the text. Provide the attached Word Bank handout for the article you are using. Have students use this to write their sentences in the activities throughout the lesson.

Allow 5 minutes for each student to write a sentence containing two or more of the words from the Word Bank. Students may include as many additional words as necessary to complete their thoughts. Each student's sentence should be completely unique, depending on the connections perceived among the words. Make sure that students know a word form can be altered to make sense in the construction of their sentences. For example, the word "moving" could be changed to "move."

Students should come back to these sentences at the end of the lesson.


Display slide 7. Hand out copies of the Dave Barry article you plan to use. Based on the title, students should predict the content of the article. Predictions should be written next to the title on each student's handout. Allow students a moment to make a prediction based on the title of the article. Ask a few students to share out their predictions.

Display slide 8 or 9 based on the article you are using. Write a prediction, or a version of what was shared in class, on the model copy for students to see.

Display slide 10. Have students number each paragraph on their own copy of the text. A quick check can be made to see if all students have identical numbers by asking the class to shout out the first three words of each paragraph as you model how to number them using the displayed version of the article.

Display slide 11. Next, provide a reading prompt to provide students with a focus while reading. “How does Barry use exaggeration to communicate his message?” Students should copy the question onto their copy of the article. Students then read through the text one time with an Elbow Partner, or as a whole class, without marking anything. Students should discuss their answers to the question with their partner.


Display slide 12 and go over expectations for annotating. Distribute copies, post or use slide 13 to share the Annotated Text poster.

If you hand out copies, ask students to write “hyperbole” next to “How to Mark the Text,” so they know on which literary device they are to focus. Use the poster as a reference to explicitly teach annotating the first two paragraphs either on the document camera while students mark their own copies or using the text on slide 14 or 15 depending on the article you are using. Explain to students the value of annotating texts. For students that are new to annotation or need more support, you should model annotating more of the paragraphs as a class, but not the whole article. If guidance is needed, see the attached Dashing Through the Snow Sample Responses or Don’t Box Me In Sample Responses. Annotations will vary depending on the connections you and students find in the text. 

How to mark the text:

  • Highlight examples of hyperbole (exaggeration) and write the meanings in the margin

  • Circle key terms, repeated words, or examples of strong diction

  • Underline main ideas and summarize them in the margins

  • Draw arrows to label connections noticed in the text

  • Write questions in the margins next to sections that are unclear or cause the reader to wonder about something

The remaining paragraphs may be marked independently or as a class. If you wish to narrow the focus, students may mark only a specific paragraph or a few paragraphs that are central to the text. Provide enough time for everyone to finish marking the text.


Display slide 17. "30-Second Expert" Strategy. 

In pairs, have students take turns as the speaker and as the listener. The speakers should share how annotation helps them analyze the text and determine the author’s purpose and point of view. Each student has only 30 seconds to share. The speaker starts out by stating, “I am an expert on this topic because I know…” When the speaker has finished, the listener should say, “According to (partner’s name),” then summarize what their partner just shared. The listener should then ask, “Did I get that right?” After the speaker clears up any misconceptions, each student should record any new information gained on their paper. Students then reverse the roles of speaker and listener and go through the process again.

This shows students how to summarize key information gleaned from the annotation process and practice speaking/listening skills by summarizing what their partner says. 

Call on students to share out insights added to their annotations during the strategies used in their 30-Second Expert activity. If there are important features of the text that students did not notice, give students hints about annotations that are still needed. Model on the document camera or Google Docs as necessary.


Display slide 18 or 19 depending on the article you are using. Turn students' attention back to the vocabulary word bank and sentences written at the very beginning of the lesson. Students keep their annotated articles in front of them, and either revise or write completely new sentences using the vocabulary. The goal is for students to write sentences that make connections between the words in the Word Bank. Allow students to use the same words they used the first time, add more of the words, or pick a totally new set of words from the choices available. Ask students to reflect on the changes in their sentences and how annotating a text changed your perspective? Have them add their response to the Word Bank page.

Display slide 20. Have students share final answers to this question as an Exit Ticket: How do writers use exaggeration to communicate messages in creative and interesting ways?