Annotating a Short Story: The Gift of the Magi

Contributor: Anna Ledezma. Lesson ID: 13038

Did you know we only remember a small portion of what we read? When we actively connect by annotating, we become better, more perceptive readers, and can ace that next exam! Discover how to annotate.


Comprehension, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Let's say we go on a treasure hunt. We need our map, a compass, some bug spray, very thick shoes, and a shovel (for when we find the treasure). Using our map, we would go traipsing here and there — zigzagging through tall grasses, wet rainforests. Finally, we would arrive at our destination: X marks the spot! Now what do we do? Dig up the treasure!

Reading is a lot like going on a treasure hunt.

You get to travel through different spaces and times, traipsing here and there, in order to acquire your treasure. But when you get to your destination, you have to dig to find the treasure. This is where annotation comes in handy.

"Annotating" is just a fancy word for digging up your treasure. You can think of annotating as "digging deeper." Annotating means that we pull the most important parts of a story out, so we can analyze the text.

To get a deeper understanding, watch How to Annotate a Text, from Heather Butz:


As you saw in the video, there are multiple ways you can annotate a text. A couple of examples can be found below:


Use your favorite colors to make text stand out.

TIP: Highlighting is a great tool but be careful! It's so much fun to use those brightly-colored tools, but we often highlight too much information. Be very particular about what you highlight.

Use sticky notes or tabs

This is a great option if you don't want to write in your book. Choose your favorite colors to mark different places in your book that you will want to return to later.

Underline key phrases

Underline any phrases that stand out to you so you can return to them later. Be very careful to only underline text that appears to be very important to you. Often, phrases that are seen multiple times in a text are very important.

Circle or box key words

Look for words that can be associated with the main idea of the story. Look for clues from the author about which words are deeply important.

Ask questions

If you find that you have a particular question, write it down. These will come in handy as you dig deeper into the text.

Look over these annotation methods with your parent or teacher.

  • Which of these methods seem the most interesting to you?
  • Have you ever used any of these annotation methods before?

You probably realize how important all of these methods can be when analyzing a story.

Move on to the Got It? section to learn more!

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