Reading with Pen in Hand: Teaching Annotation in Close Reading


In today’s fast-paced world, students often struggle to handle overwhelming amounts of information from various sources. As educators, we must help them develop essential skills to analyze and critically examine texts. One such skill is close reading – a technique that involves reading closely and critically while engaging with the text by taking notes, marking passages, and asking questions. This article will examine the importance of annotation in close reading, provide tips on how to teach annotation effectively, and explore the benefits it brings into the educational process.

The Importance of Teaching Annotation in Close Reading

Annotation plays a vital role in enhancing students’ understanding of complex texts. It serves as an active reading strategy, where students can interact with the text by underlining or highlighting essential parts, making comments in the margins, summarizing ideas, or asking questions about what they read. Teaching annotation fosters self-reflection, comprehension, and analytical thinking, which are crucial to academic success.

Tips for Teaching Annotation in Close Reading

Here are some tips to help you teach annotation effectively:

1. Introduce annotation gradually: Start by introducing your students to the concept of annotation and its benefits. Encourage them to practice this skill regularly with small sections of text before moving on to more extended readings.

2. Model annotation for students: Show your students examples of annotated texts or model annotating a passage in front of them. By doing so, you provide them with a tangible example of what annotations should look like and how they can be used to enhance understanding.

3. Teach different types of annotations: Encourage your students to use various forms of annotations depending on their preferences and learning style – color-coding for related ideas, symbols for specific textual features, or writing comments directly next to the text.

4. Use technology: Many digital tools (e.g., Microsoft OneNote or PDF annotators) can be used by students to create and organize their annotations electronically, making them searchable and accessible across different devices.

5. Encourage collaboration: Allow students to share their annotations with peers, both in-person and digitally. This practice promotes communication skills and peer-learning while helping to reinforce the annotation process.

6. Provide feedback on annotations: Assess your students’ annotations regularly and offer targeted feedback to ensure they learn from this exercise and stay motivated throughout the process.

Benefits of Annotation in Close Reading

Teaching annotation in close reading comes with several benefits:

1. Enhanced comprehension: Annotation provides students with a way to actively engage with texts, reflecting on intricate details and main ideas. This focused attentiveness improves their understanding of the material.

2. Critical thinking skills: Annotating texts encourages students to analyze the material critically, as they must make connections and deductions based on the content.

3. Improved retention: The process of annotating enables students to retain information better, as it requires them to think deeply about the text and identify key themes or concepts.

4. Self-awareness: By reviewing their annotations, students can evaluate their thought processes and track progress over time, promoting self-awareness and aiding continuous development.


In summary, annotation is a powerful tool in close reading that promotes engagement, comprehension, critical thinking, and self-awareness. As educators, we must teach this skill effectively to empower our students with essential abilities needed for academic and personal success today and later in life.

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