Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Categorical Highlighting

Lindsay Williams | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


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Categorical Highlighting

This strategy actively engages readers in a text as they look for and annotate information that fits in predetermined categories of interest or importance.

Categorical Highlighting


This annotation strategy actively engages students in their reading as they search for and highlight text in predetermined categories. In contrast to the Why-Lighting strategy, which is more open-ended, this strategy begins with identifying specific ideas that students will look for. 


  1. Identify two to four categories or ideas that students will look for in a given text (for example, parts of speech, wholes and parts, unit, rate, time, etc.). Alternatively, allow students to identify these categories.

  2. Assign each category a specific highlighter color. As students read, they highlight text that they feel fits into a particular category with the appropriate color. Highlighting can be done individually, in a small group, or as a whole class for younger students.

  3. Have students compare and discuss what they have highlighted with a partner and then with the whole class.

  4. Optional: Have students write a short summary of what they learned about one of the categories, and then have one person share out about each category.