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Why Highlight? Highlighting Directions and Guidelines

We have all been there, asking our students to do something they don't want to. At More Than Words we have very few rules. However, one of the rules is you must highlight. Students ask weekly, "Why? I can do the assignment without highlighting." The short answer is, "You can complete the assignment, but the directions may not make sense, and the directions may not be followed completely."


The highlighting strategy we are discussing today is a way to simplify the syntax (sentence structure) and increase comprehension. For many students, the goal is to get an assignment done as quickly as possible. This can create the issue of not fully reading instructions and completing assignments incorrectly or only completing half an assignment. For elementary aged students, the highlighting strategy forces them to slow down and read the directions. From there, they must highlight the keywords that dictate how the assignment should be completed. For example, Read each sentence below. Circle the noun, and underline the verb. Write the prepositional phrase on the line. This simplifies the sentence structure by taking out unnecessary word (while still retaining its meaning) and helps the child focus on what he/she is supposed to do.


Once the students are in middle school and high school, they can continue to use this strategy for directions, syllabi, rubrics, and anything that has specific directions, guidelines, or due dates. This can increase executive functioning skills (planning, organizing, prioritizing) even for students in college (and as adults!).


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