Home > Our Design Lab > Learning Activities > Feelings Annotation

Feelings Annotation


Through this activity, students focus on the emotions and internal thoughts of an important character in a text.  As they read, they imagine what a key character is feeling, and why.  They annotate the text with notes and explanations about the feelings and thoughts.   This activity can help students to identify more deeply with a character, and to better understand the intentions, motivations, and actions of characters in text.


Catherine Ullman-Shade

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Inferring

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers


  • Identify the text or portion of a text that you want students to read, or allow students to choose.  The text should have at least one compelling character, and should include events or comments that would be likely to evoke strong emotions in the character.  The text should NOT include extensive explicit description or  analysis of the character’s feelings, since this would make the student’s work redundant. 
  • Gather enough post-it notes so that each student or pair can have 2 different colors.


Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher models reading an excerpt of a text aloud, and thinking aloud about what a character is likely thinking and feeling at points in the text.
    • It can be helpful to model using a familiar text, or a text that precedes or is related to the one the students will be reading. 
    • Think aloud as you are modeling, and explicitly explain how the word(s) that you read help you to infer the characters’ feelings or thoughts.  Thoughts should be in the first person, in the character’s voice.
    • It may be helpful to provide students with a list of emotion/feelings words.
  2. Students prepare to read the text, alone or in pairs. Each student/pair selects a character from the text to focus on. Teacher distributes 2 colors of post-it notes to each student/pair, and ask students to assign one color as thoughts, and the other c

    You can also assign students a character to focus on. 

  3. Students read the text. As they read, they think about what the character is feeling or thinking. They write the character’s thoughts on the top half of one color of post-it, and stick the notes near the words that provoked the thought. They write th

    Circulate as students are working, helping to draw their attention toward potentially interesting lines or moments in the text, and asking them about their thinking.

  4. After reading, students look back through their notes and revisit the text. In the bottom half of each post-it note, students explain why the characters are likely thinking/feeling as they do.

    Circulate as students are working, asking what they are noticing and thinking, and helping them to clarify their reasoning. 

  5. Students get into small groups, and each student shares several things s/he learned/inferred about a character. Students discuss how these inferences contribute to meaning in the text.

    Circulate as students are working, sitting with each group for several minutes.  Listen to their ideas, and help them to consider ideas they may not yet have considered. 

  6. Students reflect on their learning alone or individually, orally or in writing.

    Students should respond to questions including:

    • How does this process help you to understand the meaning of a text? 
    • How does this activity affect your engagement with the text?
    • How does empathizing with character feelings affect your comprehension?
    • When might this activity be most useful for you? 
Downloadable Resources 
Login to See More