Digital Skills: Developing Online Assessment Skills in Everyday Classroom Activities Western Reserve Public Media
Using Non-fiction Signposts and Close Reading to Identify and Analyze Common Themes Across Multiple Texts
I can:
  • use nonfiction signposts to help me annotate text.

  • use annotations to determine the central idea of a text.

  • identify a common central idea (when given two related texts) and provide evidence from each text to support the central idea.

  • write an informative essay that uses evidence from texts to discuss the thematic similarities/differences between two or more texts by a single author.

Tech Skills:
  • Editing

  • Keyboarding

  • Mouse Skills

  • Moving text

  • Word Processing

Materials and Resources:
Grade Level:
  • 10th Grade
    (can be adapted for 7-8 or 9, 11 & 12)
Subject Area:
  • ELA/History


After reading Night by Elie Wiesel, students will read, annotate, and examine two speeches given by Wiesel with similar central ideas. Then students will write an informative/explanatory essay to explore the thematic similarities.** (A similar process can be followed with any extended text and shorter texts by the same author with similar themes)


Activity 1

Students will be given a copy of Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Acceptance Speech. This can be on a Google doc, Word document or online depending on availability and needs. This activity can be completed within Google docs or Word. Using Diigo students can bookmark the text, highlight, and annotate all while reading online. This also saves the text and annotations for access across multiple platforms.

As a close reading activity, students will be reading the text multiple times, each time with a different lens to reinforce the central idea and its development throughout the text.

Students will read the text and highlight sections of text that represent the nonfiction signposts using a color code. They will be looking for Extreme/Absolute language: language the author uses that leaves no doubt, exaggerates, and/or pushes the limit. Absolute language can include grammatical constructions that are unique and/or stand out as well as grammatical constructions and words/phrases that are frequently repeated.

The teacher can designate the color for each of the signposts. If this is the first attempt at annotating for signposts, then it is advisable to do this first activity as a group to model the concept. Because of the inclusion of grammatical constructs in the “absolute language” category, and the nature of this particular text, modeling is a good idea to focus students on the “craft and structure” of the piece. This also allows for sharing and discussion of the annotations.


Activity 2

Students re-read the text, this time using a different color and highlighting only the Contrasts & Contradictions. Contrasts and contradictions occur when the author shows a difference between what you know and what is happening in the text. Contrasts and contradictions can also relate to the students’ knowledge of other works by the same author or other texts on the same subject.

If following the scaffolded model of close reading, the second read and annotation can be done in pairs.


Activity 3

Students read the text for a third time, this time highlighting and annotating for Quoted Words and Word Gaps. Quoted words are times when the author uses a voice of authority, personal perspective, or cites other’s words. Word Gaps are not simply words students don’t know, they are words from the text that relate to the topic that are specific to that text that are unfamiliar.

This reading should be done individually.


Activity 4

After completing the third read, students will use the annotations to synthesize the meaning of the text. Students will examine the annotations and add notes that indicate how the annotation contributes to the meaning of the text. This can be done using comments in Word or Google Docs. It can be accomplished in Diigo using Outliners.

Students should reflect on each annotation by answering the following questions:

Word Gaps/Quoted Words:

  • What context is provided to support your understanding of the words?
  • Why did the author choose to use this word? What other words could be used instead?
  • Do these words relate to something else you already know?
  • What perspective does the author or quoted person provide?
  • Why did the author choose to quote this person?
  • What did this quote/perspective add to the text?

Extreme/Absolute Language

  • How would your understanding or opinion change if this language was not so extreme or absolute?
  • Why did the author use this language or this grammatical construction?
  • What does this language reveal about the author’s biases or purpose?
  • How does this construction support the author’s purpose?
  • Why does the author repeat this language


Activity 5

In this activity, students will be synthesizing the notes they have made during the four readings to come up with a statement of the central idea of the text. The central idea will be used as part of a writing prompt.

After composing the central idea statement, students will read and annotate Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Lecture independently using the signposts. to assist in them in annotating. (This sheet of questions can be used as a differentiation tool as can an option to have students work in pairs to read and annotate the Nobel Lecture)

After reading and annotating, students will write a statement of the central idea of this text as well.

The class will discuss the central ideas identified in the two texts as well as their relation to the central ideas and themes from Night.


Activity 6

In this activity, students will write an essay that explains/explores the similarities in theme among the three texts (Night, Nobel Lecture, and Nobel Acceptance Speech). Before writing, students will review the writing process and we will discuss/examine the Ohio writing rubric for informative/explanatory writing. Student will be provided a copy of the rubric via Diigo to allow for annotation and discussion before they begin writing.

Students will complete a writing plan before they write their essay to guide them through the process. The writing plan template requires students to plan their thesis statement as well as the textual evidence they will use in support of their thesis. After completing the writing plan and turning it in, students will type their essay. Students will be required to identify their thesis statement, supporting reasons, and textual evidence in their final essay this will be done using highlighting. The teacher can designate the color scheme for highlighting, etc. This also holds students accountable for using their writing plan to actually write the essay. Forcing them to identify these elements also gives students a way to visually identify the rubric elements in their writing.

Writing Prompt:

In ending his Nobel Lecture, Elie Wiesel says, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” This reinforces Wiesel’s belief that there is danger in silence. Thematically, Wiesel suggests that while silence is dangerous, there is great importance in remembering. Write a well developed essay in which you explore these themes in Night, the Nobel Lecture, and the Nobel Acceptance Speech.

Your essay should have a strong thesis statement and examples from all three texts to support your reasoning.

You will complete the essay planning document and submit it before writing your final essay. In your final essay, you will be responsible for identifying the following:

  • Underline your thesis statement
  • Use italics to identify your reasoning in each paragraph
  • Use a color of your choice to highlight textual evidence. This includes direct quotes as well as paraphrases.

Use the Ohio ELA Informative/Explanatory Writing Rubric as a guide to support your writing.


**This lesson is designed to relate the ideas of a single author, but the format could be adapted to suit any paired texts. Ideally, students will have already had instruction on the nonfiction signposts prior to reading, but that instruction can easily be added to the lesson and supported using an explanatory handout.**


RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

RI.9-10.2 Analyze informational text development. a. Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details

RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).

W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  1. Establish a clear and thorough thesis to present information.
  2. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia to aid in comprehension, if needed.
  3. Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
  4. Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
  5. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.
  6. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
  7. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).

W.9-10.5 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. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grades 9–10.)

W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
Supplementary Resources:


Google Docs

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