Blog, Central Idea, Close Reading, Key Details

Determining Importance Lessons

Determining importance is a critical skill that students must understand before they analyze any element of text, specifically main idea or central idea.

For students, choosing details that are important vs. details that are interesting can be difficult. We know this because kiddos are often drawn to the interesting details before recognizing the importance of key details necessary for determining the central idea or summarizing the text.

When introducing important vs. interesting details with my kiddos, I hadn’t yet decided what it would look like. I knew I wanted them to do something hands-on, well, because kids. #letthemtouchallthethings

So literally, like, 5 minutes before class started, it hit.

A suitcase.

My students take an overnight trip every May to St. Louis. All year long, we talk about it. The kids talk about who they will sit by on the bus, what they will shove into their backpacks, what movies we will watch on the 2878097345 million 6 hour bus ride.

And this is how this mini-lesson went…

Step 1: Put students in small groups. Give students a “suitcase” (aka – a sketch of one on a giant piece of paper), some “luggage” (aka – blank Post-it notes), and a marker.

Tell the students they have 5 minutes to pack for an overnight trip. They can pack whatever they want. Each item = 1 post it note. (Also, Pringles are pretty important for an overnight trip. I must admit).

Step 2: Tell students to write “Important” above the left side of their suitcase and “Unnecessary” on the right side of the suitcase. Give them 3 minutes to sort their “luggage” what what’s necessary and what’s important for an overnight trip.

Step 3: Then, tell them their suitcases just got SMALLER. They fold their suitcase in half, and they have 3 minutes to choose the 9 MOST IMPORTANT pieces of luggage for an overnight adventure. (ANNNNDDD….I may have mentioned that deodorant was a nonnegotiable.)

After this mini lesson, I talked to the students about how this process of sorting is what real readers do when determining importance in a text.

The next day, I kicked off the lesson with a mini anchor chart, because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an anchor chart?!

I literally just followed my Teacher’s Helper: Determining Importance pack day-by-day because #printallthethingsandgo.

Here’s the breakdown for the entire pack...

I love following the gradual release process because it allows so much practice, and you really do see how much growth the students have along the way.

On day two, my students the article “Stinky, Sweaty Stench” along with the mini-anchor chart in their interactive notebooks to determine the important details vs. the interesting details of the text.

The kiddos referenced the suit case activity all week long, and they have continued to reference it all year long.

Also, the articles were super high-interest for the kids. I mean, stinky feet, sweaty armpits and bad breath?! What more could you want to read about as a student?

I’d love to hear from you now! What other tips and trick do YOU have when teaching interesting vs. important details?

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