Because high school students are told not to write in their textbooks, many of our students are still afraid to write or otherwise mark in their college textbooks. In fact, many school districts charge students a dollar for each marked page! Additionally, students believe the myth that bookstores will not buy back textbooks that have markings in them. Of those students who are willing to mark in a text, many immediately think of highlighting as an effective reading tool. While highlighting can be used to improve reading comprehension, students often highlight so much that it becomes impossible to tell what is important, and excessive highlighting doesn't encourage them to interact with the text.

Using a pen or, better yet, a pencil on the first reading enables students to interact with the text by circling; drawing stars, arrows, and checkmarks; and writing notes and questions in the margins. Such notes might entail rephrasing the writer's words, asking questions, and/or defining words when necessary. Annotation is also a way of conversing with a text--where a student can express criticisms, make observations and connect with their own experiences. Remember, the goal is to get the students to engage in an active reading of the text. Afterwards, students can review the annotations to make more comprehensive comments, connective statements, elaborations, and then highlight the specific ideas they want to emphasize.