Highlight Away!

Here’s a way to assess what students understand in a reading without them translating or you writing questions… HIGHLIGHTING! I also have a study skills class with ESL students. I love seeing, and stealing, different activities from the other teachers. This highlighting activity is from Ms. Rice’s 10th grade English class. The goal is to “create a mental model of story elements.” With a little tweaking, it is now an interpretive reading for mine that also supports another content area.


First show the following slide and review with them some examples (“Who” can be… A person, animal, or thing.) You may want to do one together or at least show a model. If you are focusing on something specific (adjectives, family vocab, etc,), add that too. Now that I have this slide, I can quickly adapt the activity for any reading.


Give them highlighters that correspond to the colors on the slide. If you don’t have enough for your entire class, set this up as a station activity or have them underline with colored markers.

Give them some readings. I love to screenshot peopleenespanol.com or copy from the magazine. Give them some choices or let them pick their own.

Here’s the slide in English:


The last part that I’m still trying to figure out is giving them some feedback. Should I show them mine with the answers? Should they do something else with it after that? Help me out here!

A few versions of this activity are in the Mercado (Italian)

Published on: Mar 24, 2012


  1. I’m doing this right now in a reading focus unit. What I’m doing is working towards writing of summaries. So, have you review what the truly salient point are, have them get one more brain repetition of the words about writing a summary. You can conclude the summary with a review portion so the student react to it, too.
    It’s true. Cross-curricular standards met in this lesson – now the English dept. owes you.

    • tmsaue1

      That was going to be my suggestion as well. Love this literacy approach to comprehension. Having students write a summary will also give them a purpose for the highlighting activity. We didn’t just do it for activity-sake, but we did it in order to write a summary of the article.

      You could also have them tweet (real or fake) one sentence (140 characters or less of course) for each category.

  2. Neat idea! Do you have a SMARTboard? (Just found your blog and haven’t looked through it much…) If so, you could either: 1. customize your tools to give yourself highlighters in each of those colors and have some kids come highlight on the board… or 2. you could take some of the important/trickiest words/phrases of each and mix them up on the bottom a blank slide with 4 colored boxes, then have the kids drag them to the correct color.

    • Kara

      I am on a cart and there is not a smartboard in all my rooms. I think your ideas would be great though! Especially for modeling it.

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  4. Hello Kara,

    I write the blog for the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) at the University of Texas. I’m writing a post about social reading using our tool eComma, and I thought it might be nice to refer readers to your “highlight away” article. Would you mind if I mentioned your highlighting technique and linked readers to your site? The other examples of social reading that I’m mentioning are for higher ed so I think it would be really great to have a K-12 example for people.

    Please let me know what you think!

  5. Lorraine Miner

    You might also have students write Who? What? When? Where? questions based on the articles they read and then have them switch articles with another group.

    Reading is my target skill for the coming year. I like this highlighting idea very much and will certainly use it.


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