Create your own highlights

5 min. estimated reading time

Summary: Highlight text with the Chrome Extension active or use the custom highlights page

The benefit

No one knows your students' unique needs like you. You know the phrases they don't understand, the concepts they don't get, and the words that always trip them up better than anyone.

When you add a custom highlight, that highlight will show up in any reading your students do where they activate structal. Add your supports once, your students see them everywhere. No more repeating yourself a thousand times and no more putting the same supports on every new article you give them.

How to create custom highlights

There are two different ways to create your own custom highlights in structal:

  1. In the Chrome Extension: When you're using structal on a webpage, you can double click or highlight text to add your own custom highlights. This is useful when you're preparing a reading for class.
  2. From the custom highlights page: From your structal dashboard, you can create many highlights at once, and add highlights from other teachers. This is useful when you have a list of highlights you want to add or want to collaborate with other teachers to create highlights.

The custom highlight types

These scaffold types correspond to the different language features we try to point out to kids to help them understand difficult texts. You likely already point these out! They are all shown by research to help students, especially those who are struggling, to read better. See below for descriptions of each highlight type:

  • Cognate: This is a word that looks similar between two languages AND has a similar meaning (e.g. interesting).
  • High Use Vocab (a.k.a. tier two vocab): These are words/phrases that occur often in school, but not as often in spoken language. They are also used across multiple different content/subject areas (e.g. however, otherwise, abundant).
  • Idiom: These are phrases often used by fluent speakers/writers of a language to convey a meaning, that when looked at literally make no sense. These phrases can often be confusing for our learners because they're making old cultural references that they don't get (e.g. ace in the hole, up by the bootstraps) or can't be analyzed (e.g. beside the point, big cheese).
  • Content Vocab: These are phrases/words that are specific to the domain/subject that you're teaching. These often show up in vocabularly lists (e.g. Congress, mitosis).
  • Advanced Vocab: These are phrases/words that are relatively rare, but can be important for you students as they encounter more complex texts. Use this category for words that are not content specific, but still relatively rare to come across. You might even think of them as "SAT words" (e.g. delicacy, abysmal).

Method 1: The Chrome Extension

  1. Activate structal on a page or PDF where you'd like to add highlights
  2. Highlight a word or phrase where you want to add a highlight
  3. Click the button in the tooltip that says "Add custom highlight"
  4. Add the support text
    NOTE: When you click into the text box to add your support, the text you just selected will no longer be highlighted. Do not worry! structal still knows where you wanted to add a custom highlight. You will see the text you had highlighted above the text box.
  5. Choose a highlight type
  6. Click submit. You should immediately see your highlight appear
    If you don't see it, please contact

Method 2: Custom highlights page

  1. Go to the the custom highlights page
  2. Click the "Add highlight" button in the upper right corner
  3. Click the button that says "Add custom highlights"
  4. Fill out the form. When you're done, click "Create Custom highlight"
    This form is built for you to quickly add lots of highlights! It will leave the last category and language preselected for you.
  5. When you're done, click "Done" and you'll be brought back to the custom highlights page

Extra credit: Collaborate with other teachers

Since as teachers, we love to borrow from each other, you can also add other teachers' highlights to your own.

  1. Go to the the custom highlights page
  2. Where it says "Filter by teacher" at the top of the page, click the drop down. You should see all the teachers in your district. Select a teacher
    If you don't see a teacher that you should, please contact
  3. Click "View"
  4. The table should now update and show you all of that teacher's highlights. To add one of their highlights to your list, click the "+" button
    If you already have a highlight for that word, you will see a gray double check mark.
  5. To go back to your highlights, click the "Clear" button at the top

Thanks for reading!