Group Size: Any

Time Required: 60 - 90 minutes

Learning Objectives: Students will be able to...

Identify conventions in non-fiction texts that help us to identify important information
Differentiate between important and less important ideas in a text
Code the text with a star to indicate important information


Student Worksheet (attached)
Printouts of the following articles for student use:

"Popular Culture During the Great Depression"
"Charles Ponzi"

Overhead transparencies of all articles 
Overhead transparency of notes (attached)
Sticky Notes for coding the text

Do Now: (Students (S) will begin by completing the Do Now, which requires them to combine sentences, a high-yield strategy for improving student writing. The teacher (T) can then pair/share or whole-class share student responses. There are many possible correct responses.)

Connection: T will say: So far we've discussed topic, central idea and details as we've continued to build our background knowledge about the 1930s. Today we'll address the relative importance of one idea in comparison to another.

Direct Instruction / Guided Practice: Topic, central idea and details are closely related to determining importance.  The central idea, after all, is the important idea that the author wants to convey to you, the reader.  But when we read, we don't generally force ourselves to boil our reading down to one topic, one central idea and a bunch of details.  Sometimes, that is too limiting.

Especially when we are reading longer non-fiction texts--a biography, or a chapter from a science text book, or a long instructional manual for new computer--we will often encounter many important ideas, ideas that we wouldn't want to write off as mere "details."

"Determining importance," our task for today, just means recognizing the difference between important information and less important information. Let's write that down. (T will reveal definition on overhead; S will record it in notes.)

Determining importance is a crucial strategy for approach longer non-fiction texts without feeling overwhelmed, which is what we will do today.

Let's take a look at a couple of textual clues that can help us to determine importance.  These two suggestions are also previewing skills, so they should be familiar.  (T will reveal first step on overhead; S will record it in notes.)

1. Consider the title, the index and the chapter names if appropriate.

This is almost a no-brainer, but it's a step that we sometimes forget to take when we're rushing.  By taking a moment to look at the way the text is structured and how the author has chosen to set ideas apart from one another, we can begin to get a sense of the overall organization of the book and perhaps the author's ideas about what's important.

2. Pay attention to text clues like boldface, italics and underlining

Next, check out words that are boldfaced, italicized or underlined.  Authors often choose to bold, italicize or underline key words and important ideas, so a quick skim of a longer text can give us some idea of what the author thinks are the key ideas.  

3. Notice diagrams and pictures. Read the captions.

Our last previewing skill that might help us to determine importance is previewing all pictures and captions.  Timelines count!

These three steps, taken before reading, can help you to zero in on the important information.  

Once you think you have found important information, there is one more step you can take to help you keep it in mind for later.

4. Code important information with a star.

As we have already discussed, coding the text is a great way to show and to reinforce your thinking.  Plus, it helps you to hold a productive discussion with your literature circle.  Coding the text for important information is an extremely important real-life skill though, too.  Realistically, we cannot remember everything we read, so it's helpful sometimes to go back to what we've read before and refresh our memories.  If you code the text to denote important information, you will be able to quickly revisit those same ideas when you review it again down the road.

Let's practice these skills together using our first article for today, "Popular Culture During the Great Depression."

(T will walk students through steps 1 - 3 with a think-aloud.  Note that there are no pictures.  T will read the article aloud on the overhead projector as students read it at their seats.  While reading, T will draw a star in the margin of the article to denote important information and explain why that information might be important.)

Can I have a volunteer to read the second article, "Charles Ponzi?"  (T will select S to read the second article.)  As we read, let's start the information that we think is important.  (S will read and star their articles.  T will circulate to monitor progress.  T will then facilitate a pair/share.  Be sure to ask students to explain their thinking and to dispel misconceptions.  One common misconception, for example, is that the first sentence of every paragraph must be an important idea.)

Link: If you are reading a non-fiction selection for your literature circle group, you should extend your practice into your independent reading period by trying to identify the topic and central idea of each chapter on sticky notes as you read and by starring sentences or passages that you believe to be important.

If you are reading a fiction selection, however, you should code the text to show your thinking.

Independent Practice: (S will read silently and code the text or identify topic and central idea.

Since all S should have selected literature circle novels and scheduled meetings with their literature circle groups for this week, small groups of students may be holding their meetings at this time.

T will either hold individual conferences with students to monitor progress and to support individual goal-setting or pull small groups for guided reading / other interventions.

Share: Our time for today is up. Please feel free to turn to your table partner or take a short walk to meet with your literature circle group so that you can share your work for today. Go over the observations you made as you read, and critique each others' thinking.

(T should allow time and circulate to check for understanding.)

Closing: Remember, determining importance is a critical skill for us as readers, because complex texts--the kinds we encounter later in our educations in frequent in real life--often contain many important ideas.

It's time for million dollar question!

1. Why is it important to determine importance as we read?

2. What are details?

3. Note to the Instructor: Insert a question here that spirals learning from previous units.

4. Explain the relationship between the "topic" and the "central idea."


Gradual release and pair/share during Introduction to New Material/Guided Practice
Literature circle novels are differentiated by reading level and by choice
Active reading strategy: coding the text
One-on-one Reader's Workshop conference to support individual students and to encourage individual goal-setting


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

Non-profit Tax ID # 203478467