K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • revise a draft of a piece of their writing, guided by teacher comments and notations.
  • use a highlighter to mark the sections of a new draft that have been revised from the previous draft.
  • use sticky notes or marginal annotations to explain what changes they made, why they made them, and the effects of those changes.
  • write a self-assessment that explains the changes they have made and the growth that they are experiencing as writers.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1-2 Hours


  • Pen and notebook paper for each student
  • Highlighters
  • Sticky notes (optional, but helpful)
  • A draft of students’ previous work, with teacher suggestions

Technology resources

Overhead projector or whiteboard


Students must have completed a draft of writing, preferably a piece substantial enough to lend itself to thoughtful analysis and revision; an extended paragraph or a composition of 200-500 words works well.


  1. On the overhead, display a transparency of “Highlighting & Glossing Changes” or distribute paper copies to students. Review the first draft and make written comments on it, focusing on 2 or 3 comments for one Feature of Effective Writing (see Sample Revision Comments). Then, on the overhead or whiteboard, follow these revision suggestions. “Highlight” the changes with a marker and describe the changes you made, the reasons for the changes, and the effects of the changes.
  2. Return to students the drafts of their compositions with your comments and suggestions. Be sure to have several instructive suggestions on each paper (maximum 3), focusing comments on one of the Features of Effective Writing. For example, “Reorganize paragraph” (organization); “omit needless words” (style); “remove sentence fragments” (conventions); “combine short sentences for a more flowing effect” (style) are some possible comments that lend themselves well to this activity.
  3. Give students time to read your comments carefully. If necessary, explain any symbols or abbreviations you have used on their papers. Have them count your suggestions and write the number of suggestions you have made at the top of the draft.
  4. Make sure that students have paper and pens for a revision session. Tell them that they will compose a new draft following your suggestions. Instruct them to write the number of suggested changes at the top of the new draft for later reference. Hand out highlighters (students can share these; have one for every three to five students).
  5. Instruct students to begin revising their own compositions following the process you have modeled.
  6. Circulate around the room as students work, helping them when needed. Monitor to be sure that student annotations are thoughtful. This is a good opportunity for individual instruction in style and conventions.
  7. If necessary, students should complete this activity at home.
  8. When students complete the revision, highlighting and glossing, they should complete the Revision Self-Assessment and staple it to the two drafts before handing them in.


You will enjoy being able to assess student work by focusing exclusively on the highlighted areas of the new drafts and the sticky notes or marginal annotations in which students have explained the changes they have made. The number of suggested changes written at the top of both drafts should match the number of highlighted changes. Evaluate students’ performance based on their following your suggested changes and their understanding of what they have changed, why they have made those changes, and the effect those changes have had.

Supplemental information


Students should become proficient at this and able to highlight and gloss their work independently. Require highlights and glosses with each revision.

This lesson was created as part of the NCDPI writing lessons for Writing Features Workshop. Target features for this Lesson: organization, support & elaboration, style and conventions.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Language

        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking. 9-10.L.1.1 Use parallel structure.* 9-10.L.1.2 Use various types of phrases (noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, participial, prepositional, absolute)...
          • 9-10.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening. 9-10.L.3.1 Write and edit work so that it conforms to the...
        • Writing

          • 9-10.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
          • 9-10.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 10

  • Goal 6: The learner will apply conventions of grammar and language usage.
    • Objective 6.01: Demonstrate an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression by:
      • employing varying sentence structures (e.g., inversion, introductory phrases) and sentence types (e.g., simple, compound, complex, compound-complex).
      • analyzing authors' choice of words, sentence structure, and use of language.
      • using word recognition strategies to understand vocabulary and exact word choice (Greek, Latin roots and affixes, analogies, idioms, denotation, connotation).
      • examining textual and classroom language for elements such as idioms, denotation, and connotation to apply effectively in own writing/speaking.
      • using correct form/format for essays, business letters, research papers, bibliographies.
      • using language effectively to create mood and tone.
    • Objective 6.02: Edit for:
      • subject-verb agreement, tense choice, pronoun usage, clear antecedents, correct case, and complete sentences.
      • appropriate and correct mechanics (commas, italics, underlining, semicolon, colon, apostrophe, quotation marks).
      • parallel structure.
      • clichés, trite expressions.
      • spelling.