Determining importance is a critical skill as we approach testing season, and with my classes, I try to practice this by modeling with mentor texts/think aloud and practicing with shorter articles quite a bit from February to April.
I don’t know about your students, but some of mine “paint the page” with their highlighters. Teaching them how to determine importance really cuts down on that. They have great difficulty determining what information is most valuable, and I’ve even had kids say, “But, all the information is important.” Yes, but some information is more useful for certain comprehension skills. This year, I’ve worked quite a bit on close reading strategies and citing text evidence, so hopefully we’ll be in better shape as we close in on our state assessments.
What Text Works Best for Determining Importance?
So what texts work best for determining importance? Well for my groups, I typically choose books that:
- Have lots of details to sift through.
- Include headings and subheadings to help with categorizing information.
- Have main ideas that are clearly defined.
- Include quite a few characters and lots of action in fiction.
Introducing Determining Importance
When I begin teaching this skill, I start by using this lesson from One Extra Degree. I think the analogy helps students think about the fact that not everything is of equal value. The kids really enjoyed this lesson last year, and I think it’s definitely a repeater. We even made suitcases out of file folders to keep our notes.
Determining Importance Next Steps:
After we’ve determined our packing list, I give my kids this handout to place in their interactive notebooks. As we practice with articles, I try to have them keep a few as examples of how they can mark the passages and use the margins for notetaking.
Practice with Texts
While we’re on the topic of our packing list, this book might be useful for modeling. When we think about gardening, there are things that are essential to know.
Here’s what the Amazon description says,
Lydia Grace Finch brings a suitcase full of seeds to the big gray city, where she goes to stay with her Uncle Jim, a cantankerous baker. There she initiates a gradual transformation, bit by bit brightening the shop and bringing smiles to customers’ faces with the flowers she grows. But it is in a secret place that Lydia Grace works on her masterpiece — an ambitious rooftop garden — which she hopes will make even Uncle Jim smile. Sarah Stewart introduces readers to an engaging and determined young heroine, whose story is told through letters written home, while David Small’s illustrations beautifully evoke the Depression-era setting.
Stop and Jot During Reading:
Here’s a video clip of the book that can be used for modeling. I love using this as the students can read along and yet, the teacher can stop and discuss what would be most important and record those points on a determining importance organizer.
Other texts I’ve found that you might use are listed below:
- Tops and Bottoms
- Wilfred Gordan McDonald Partridge
- Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
- Rudi’s Pond
- The Keeping Quilt
- The Empty Pot
- The Big Green Pocketbook
- The Old Woman Who Names Things
- Miss Rumphius
- Prince William
- Arthur Writes a Story
- and The Memory String
Resources for Determining Importance
This graphic organizer freebie is what I used with my small groups. You can use it with any of the books above. As we used it with The Gardner, we worked in sections. We periodically stopped and jotted our thoughts.
I also found the organizer on the left if you want something to project that has color. I am thinking you could insert it into Smart Notebook and write/type in the boxes for modeling.
Determining importance takes lots of practice, and hopefully, with this long list of mentor texts, you’ll have plenty of options.