Close Read Freebie

        What Highlight Through Yonder Window Breaks

        It wasn't long ago that I was deeply in love…with highlighters.  The brighter the colors, the more I loved them. I collected big, chunky, fluorescent highlighters the way some people collect paperclips. What? Only Bert from Sesame Street collects paperclips?  Okay, but you know what I mean.

       I kept a big clear Lucite jar on my desk,and it was always filled with lime green, sunny yellow, hot pink, and my favorite tangerine highlighters. Ahhh. My lovely Lucite highlighter jar.
        My students knew how invaluable the highlighter can be, especially for visual learners. I taught lessons on how to highlight correctly. “Why do we highlight?” I would ask.
        “So information stands out,” they'd answer.
        “What happens if we highlight everything?”
        “Then nothing stands out,” they would respond.
        “Exactly,” I would say, “so highlighting everything is the same as highlighting nothing.” That was my mantra.
           My epiphany came as epiphanies do, on an otherwise mundane day during a Socratic seminar. Students had read and highlighted the passage a day ahead of time, so I presented them with an interpretive question on a character’s motive. Now they had to find text evidence to support their ideas. I watched as they perused the text, looking for supporting details. I waited. And waited. It wasn't long before I knew they were struggling. But since there were several possible answers with evidence to support each one, I couldn't understand why they were having difficulties.
       We took a “brain break” to discuss the problem. The kids told me they could think of a possible “answer,” but the evidence eluded them even as they went back to look at the important details they had highlighted
      Eureka! (Great word: a big thank you goes out to my man Archimedes for that one.)
     They hadn't highlighted everything, but the highlighted text limited their reference to just the highlighted text. They didn't reread anything that wasn't highlighted!
      My love affair with the beautiful, but shallow, highlighter was over.
      I did what I had to do. I went back to my old, forgotten love: the trusty #2 pencil.
      Now I teach students the tried and true method of annotating text (we used to call it “explication”). I start by modeling how to annotate text in a close read, and the students mark up the text like there’s no tomorrow. Although I encourage students to use what I like to call “text toolbox” symbols, I encourage them to use any symbols they are comfortable using.
      The page does not look as pretty...sigh..sometimes I do miss the lovely colors.
      But looks aren't everything, gosh darn it! Annotating the text works.   
      Here’s a free text toolbox bookmark download. Enjoy it!
              My name is Darlene, and I've been off highlighters for six months now. I'm trying to stay strong. How about you?


  1. LOL! This is a cute post. :) I too, am off of hightlighers. :) I did a good bit with close reading this past year and one of my fifth graders said something that really explains what our close reading pages look like in our classroom. He said, "My page looks college-y." Well of course I made a big deal of his ugly college-y paper and of course our new goal became to get as much written on there as we could. ;) So, I guess I'm with you, mo more pretty colorful pages. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners

    1. Haha! "College-y" That is precious! And it's true! Feel free to join my highlighters anonymous support group, Brandee.
      Take care!

  2. I HATE when my students use highlighters. Partially because they just like to color things but also because they highlight too much. We do an Article of the Week in my class, and I require my students to annotate. I allow them to highlight because it's comfortable for the, but I have to remind them EVERY WEEK that highlighting doesn't prove they're thinking about their reading. This is SO hard for my kiddos, but their reading gets so much stronger when they make the switch.

    1. I love the way you phrase it: "It doesn't prove they're thinking about their reading." That's a terrific way to explain it!
      Thank you!

  3. Love this!! I know exactly where you're coming from. It drives me CRAZY when they highlight everything, especially when I have explained how to do it ad nauseum! Great bookmarks! Thanks for sharing! :)

    Mrs. Beattie's Classroom

    1. I'm so happy you like the bookmarks! Thank you, Erin!

  4. I remember teaching the proper use of highlighters took quite awhile for my kids and some never got it. I don't think I could give them up, though- I LOVE color!! ;) Highlighters, pens markers- all in fashion colors!

    I love your epiphanies :D

    Desktop Learning Adventures

  5. I need my 12 Step program to stay off of them. It's not easy, but I'm doing it for the kids ;)

  6. I love the bookmarks!! Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. I remember trying so hard to get my students to highlight important information and they just wanted to highlight as much as they could. I think they just have a fascination with highlighters because they are able to tell me what is most important.

    Sixth Grade Tales

  8. Hi Darlene! I found your blog through the Middle Grades blog hop and am so happy I did. I too am a middle school English teacher (well, almost....really really close....!) and I think that staying connected with you here is going to prove to be invaluable during my first year!! I love the idea of highlighters, but I think that personally I always felt more accomplished and like I had actually learned something if I annotated (my methods course professor called it "talking to the text"). I'm excited to get my students "talking to the text". What about colored pencils?

    Emily (your newest Bloglovin' follower!)

    The Absolutely True Blog of an Almost Teacher

  9. Hello Teacher Blogger!
    I wanted to thank you for your participation in the Middle School Blog Log on the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.
    Some changes are coming to the blog log. We have a new and more colourful button that I feel will attract more traffic to the site and our blogs. Please update our button on your teacher blog with the new code located at
    We have also started a Closed Facebook group to stay connected to one another for marketing and social purposes. Please join us at the group called Middle School Bloggers in the Facebook groups area.
    Thanks for all you do. I read your blogs via bloglovin and so jealous of all your creativity.
    Kristy @ 2peasandadog {at}

  10. Ah, I had the same experience with highlighters! It was like a rainbow threw up all over their papers! I agree that while the pencil is not the prettiest, it definitely is the best for annotating! :)