Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Annotating Text

Susan McHale | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


Cover Image

Annotating Text

Annotating Text is a strategy that engages students in close reading to build their vocabulary and reading comprehension. Students identify difficult or confusing passages in a text and then seek to explain them.

Annotating Text


Begin by giving students a piece of text to read. Before reading, students preview the text to predict what the text might be about. Students are then given a clear purpose for annotating. Students might identify difficult or confusing words/phrases and then explain them, or they might look for information that refers to a character or setting. Students create and write annotations to explain and expand their understanding of the text.


  1. Pass out the text selection to all students.

  2. As a class, students discuss the title, subtitles, and pictures in the text. Ask students to predict what the text might be about.

  3. Explain that one purpose for annotating text is to help readers who are unfamiliar with certain words or phrases gain a clearer understanding.

  4. As a class, read the selection and determine which parts of the text might be confusing or difficult. Highlight or number those words or passages.

  5. Place students in pairs. Ask pairs to discuss and write a short explanation for each highlighted or numbered passage. Pairs might need to use a textbook, glossary, dictionary, internet research, or other resources to compose their explanations.

  6. Pairs write their explanations for each annotated passage at the bottom or side of the text. Use the source link below for further information.

Blow, M. (2016). Engage readers and increase comprehension: Annotate text.