Students use highlighters. Yet, most do not know how. This blogpost offers an approach for teaching highlighting. See what you think about it.

Before asking students to use highlighters as a learning tool (at the upper elementary, middle and high-school levels), I would do the following:

1. Create or find a thoughtful and provocative one-page piece of writing that will hook students to want to read it.

2. Give each student two highlighters, each one a different color, for example one yellow and one blue.

3. Put a question on the board and ask them to use the yellow highlighter to search for information to learn the answer and to support their thinking. Tell them to highlight words or phrases and not sentences or paragraphs.

4. Have the students take two minutes to compare their highlighting with a partner in preparation for a class conversation.

5. With the whole class, seek consensus about what should have been highlighted, then have students write out their thoughts and further questions they may have.

6. Put a second question on the board and ask them to use the blue highlighter to underline words and phrases in the same article. If they highlight the same words as they did with yellow, the words will appear green, which can stimulate further conversation.

7. Again have them compare their highlighting with a peer and hold a class discussion, and have them write out their thoughts and conclusions.

8. An option at this point is to have students meet in groups to write a common statement in response to one or both of the questions.

9. Finally, hold a whole-class discussion to flesh out further questions and assess understandings.

When we focus our intention on using highlighters, we have the opportunity to put ourselves in our students’ shoes, as we not only demonstrate how to highlight but also sit alongside them and provide feedback… Another approach that uses two highlighters in a one-page exercise is to have students use one color to mark what they think is significant and the other for what they find confusing…

Discover other such ideas for teaching literacy in Chapter 3, “Instill Skills” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn that you can purchase from