Student Highlight & Annotation Tools for Quizzes

Standardized testing looms large in the minds of all 3-8 grade teachers, in NJ where I work especially,  but also across the country. One of the skills students need to be able to succeed on the PARCC or SBA is to organize their thinking while reading across texts in an online testing environment, in order to write coherent essays and answer multiple choice questions citing text evidence in their answers. We teach them to do that by highlighting portions of the text as they are reading or going back to re-read, so they can use those pieces of evidence in writing their constructed responses. This is what they will be expected to do when they take PARCC or SBA.


We want our teachers to use Canvas to create engaging, meaningful, creative and collaborative learning experiences for students. The unfortunate reality of PARCC and SBA results being tied to teacher evaluations means our teachers also want tools they can use to specifically and directly help students practice for high-stakes testing. Annotation tools would go a long way in that regard. Please consider developing a way for students to highlight text in quizzes.

New Member

I'm trying to "vote up" and although it says open for voting, my vote is not registering. I have just found this idea and fully support it. We teach language, literacy and numeracy to adults and our benchmarking tool and curriculum outcomes require students to annotate texts to show their understanding. I think ideas in Canvas should be open longer for voting and it would be good if there was a notifications bell in my instance so as an admin I could see new ideas as they are submitted and I could quickly click on the notification to see if I wanted to vote for it then and there.

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

 @sue_valdeck ‌, this idea is still open for voting, and your upvote was registered. For more information on how the ideation process works, how long ideas remain open, and how ideas move through their stages, please refer to How does the feature idea process work?‌ and 

New Member

Hi Chelsea. Am I able to ask what other platforms you used to enable this?



New Member

For those of us doing language assessments (Reading specifically) this feature is essential, and links to the learning activities done in class. Fingers crossed.

Community Contributor

A great idea to be sure. This student-centered feature is a standard in state-based assessments, so there's no reason why Canvas shouldn't mirror that set of standard features. Doing so will represent the practice students need to sit down for the high-stakes testing, a phase of our education system that probably won't fade any time soon.

New Member

Of all the Feature Ideas that I have seen, this would be the most applicable to my classroom and students. The NCTest App that students test on has highlighting tools, but other than the app tutorial, final exams are the only times that students use these tools. If they were able to use highlighting in Canvas throughout my course and other courses, they would be using the annotating feature on a much more regular basis, and I think it would prove a much more meaningful tool on the actual assessment. 

New Member

We are building a tool that may help with this and will be integrated into Canvas very soon!! We are a new company called Inkerz. We turn any pen into smart pen allowing teachers to have students on paper and have it appear on the screen!!! We are a new Booster partner! Come check us out at Instructorcarn and consider applying for our early adopters program. I was a middle school history teacher for years, a big fan of annotation skills, and would have loved this in my classroom. 


New Member

We want the teachers to use canvas.

New Member

Recently North Carolina changed the processes in which tests are administered. NC now uses NCTEST a Chromebook app for each grade level and content specific end of grade/course testing. The NCTEST app allows students to highlight, read aloud, strike through text, eliminate answer choices, etc. ; therefore, practicing with these tools throughout the year would help students to be more successful on their state test at the end of the year. 

New Member

I certainly agree. I teach first grade and work with students on using pencils and highlighters to annotate. However, wouldn't it make sense if instead I was able to teach them how to use annotation tools on the computer/chrome book? Especially during our assessments and practice work? If this was the case, wouldn't it seem that our students would be much more prepared for End of Grade testing on technology? 

New Member

We are teaching Physician Assistant how to create medical documents.  We would like to have line annotation feature similar to the one available in speed grader for essay type questions within a quiz.

New Member

I think this idea should be integrated within the Canvas a high school teacher, part of my wheelhouse is teaching students to talk to the text and identify key features of a text. Allowing annotations would enable students to elaborate on the effect of the things that they notice. When students are currently taking a quiz on Canvas, they tend to jump straight to the multiple choice without doing best practice and practicing close reading. Allowing annotations would promote close reading. 

New Member

As an EC teacher, I am constantly needing to print copies of our online documents and quizzes so that our students can annotate their work. Teachers on my team are regularly asking if there is a way that they could allow their students to annotate in Canvas so that they can include the work on Canvas rather than requiring students to keep up with an extra piece of paper. In a population where we are encouraging 21st-century skills such as using Canvas consistently for all work, students need to be able to have the option to annotate and close read documents while allowing teachers to see their work. Annotations in Canvas would improve student workflow and learning independence.

New Member

I think this is a great feature idea that would benefit the teaching and learning process for students and teachers. As technology takes over education it has become essential to teach the skill of annotating online text. The same applies for the end of grade tests that many subjects require at the end of the school year. Teaching students how to dissect and annotate text on tests as well as the multiple choice questions has become a vital part of teaching and learning. Before any big game, it necessary for one to practice, practice, practice. Students AND teachers have to prepare for an end of grade test at the end of the year and students need to practice taking assessments that resemble this one. The test becomes an invalid data point if students are prohibited from doing their best simply because they are not sure how to utilize the tools on the test navigator. Plus, students need to use the tools on the test navigator to annotate text and questions in order to answer the question correctly. I am a passionate user of Canvas, however, my assessments must be administered through SchoolNet because there are annotating tools that appear on schoolnet that will appear on the end of grade test throughout the year. SchoolNet allows students to practice what the end "game" is. If I could contribute a little more to this feature idea I would say, have the highlight and annotating tools on the Canvas quizzes BUT ALSO it would be helpful to save the work that students do when annotating the quiz questions and answers as well as eliminating answer choices in order to help see student thinking and misconceptions.

New Member

Features that enable students to highlight, annotate text, and drag and drop answers would be GREAT!  Throughout the course, teachers could infuse each tool into student assignments.  This would afford students the opportunity to become familiar with and use of the features throughout the course.  This, in turn, would better prepare students in using these tools on the state exams, as these tools are available for students during the state exams. This would be a wonderful addition!!!

New Member

Allowing students to highlight and annotate within their canvas quiz would be an amazing game-changing addition to canvas! The EOC exams that my students take has highlight and cross out functions. Allowing students to practice these test taking strategies within their canvas quizzes-which I use almost daily- would be great practice for them. This would allow them to practice positive test taking strategies in an online platform on a regular basis. I know this might be forward thinking, but if there were even a way for us to see what they highlighted/annotated after submitting their quiz that would be valuable information and allow a deeper understanding of where they stand with the content. 

New Member

I would like to be able to highlight, bold and add color to my comments to students' homework and tests.

Community Member

Med. School LMS admin. here! Our students constantly complain about:

1) Lack of ability to highlight in the question stem and

2) Lack of ability to strike out answer choices

These two features would be a huge improvement in our computer-based exam process (in addition to the printable quizzes).

New Member

I definitely support this idea and I also think that the option to "cross off answers" would be a great integration. 

New Member

My students would love to have this feature everywhere in Canvas.  I use pages as a way to present resources and it would be great if they have annotation notes, highlights, and on tests if they could have student mark which responses they feel are wrong in Multiple Choice.  I hope this receives enough votes.