Mark It Up Strategy

By | 2018-01-08T09:03:05+00:00 February 19th, 2016|

As a musician, I can’t tell you how many times I needed to “mark up” my music.  I thought I knew what that meant – until I got to college.  Where I used to just circle tricky passages or make a reminder here or there before, I now had to create fully colorized pages on my music.  It was a night and day difference!

What’s funny is that the markings themselves weren’t what helped me with the piece: it was the process of marking up my music that allowed me to dive deeper into it.  By taking the time to examine the music for specific purposes, I could see and appreciate how all of the pieces worked together.

We can use this same strategy when working on any composition or problem! Here’s how it works:

1. You hand out a piece of writing, a math problem, or an artistic composition.  It could be from another source, or it may be the child’s own work.

2. Ask students to use the poster below to review the work four times.  Each time, they are examining the work for a different purpose.  Be sure they have 4 different colors to use!

3. After students have marked up the work, gather together as a group and discuss what each of them noticed about the piece as they studied it.  Were there any common threads?

Here’s the poster that students can reference in this classroom strategy:


mark up strategy




You can use this strategy in any classroom – E/LA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts – and adjust it to meet your grade level needs.   Let’s all dig a little deeper and see what we can discover!

Susan Riley is the founder and President of She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.

Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.

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