As a first grade teacher, we spend A LOT of time working on retelling skills. With lots of practice and constant retelling instruction throughout the year, I must say my little ones end up as retelling experts by the time spring hits! But as I begin to transition my kids from first grade to second grade, we start to discuss how to determine importance within fiction and nonfiction texts.
What do all of these items have in common?
They were all used to teach my readers how to determine importance when reading text!
Why is it important to determine importance when reading? For starters, it’s a necessary skill when we identify the main idea within a text. My little readers also need to be able to determine importance in order to be successful at summarizing, which is hit hard in 2nd grade. It can be a difficult skill, but they are rockin’ it with the help of some concrete, hands-on literacy lessons! Let’s take a look:
I started our little unit on Determining Importance with a tried and true literacy guru:
Tanny McGregor! In Tanny’s book, Comprehension Connections, Tanny uses a strainer and pasta to make the illustration that some pieces of information within a text are important, while others are not important – they are “extra” pieces of information. I brought cooked pasta that I had boiled at home and as I read a story, I slowly drained the water into bowl using the strainer and a pot. We discussed that the water was the “extra” information (or information not really needed for our overall understanding), and the pasta was the really important information.
As I would read books throughout the week, I used the strainer as a concrete reminder when we sorted important information vs. extra information. I ended up placing the strainer on top of my head and explaining to the students that I want the REALLY important information to fill up my brain. I shared that sometimes, I do read a book and “forget” some of the little, extra information. Every single teeny detail does not always STICK or DRAIN into my brain!
To fully show the lessons I taught, here are some embarrassing photographs from these actual lessons – just to keep it real!
The next hands-on activity we did also came from Tanny McGregor! I told you she was AMAZING, right?! I had my kiddos make a circle around the carpet and shared an anchor chart with them. The chart had two parts to it: Things I MUST keep in my purse and things I DO NOT need in my purse. (If you’re new to my blog and totally confused by the name on my chart, that name is my married name that my kiddos call me now.)
I set out all six items from my purse and placed them in front of my kids. (Yes, I really have LOTS of items in my purse but for the lesson’s sake, I picked out six items: lotion, my wallet, my driver’s license, my school and car keys, sunglasses, and a pack of tissues.) Together, we discussed and sorted the items into the two categories.
The kids did A LOT of talking among themselves about which items I needed and which items I did not need. They did a great job at explaining WHY they thought I needed or did not need each item.
Here are our results from this activity:
My kiddos decided that my wallet was needed in case I was in an emergency and needed some money. My driver’s license was important because I needed it to drive – or as one kiddo said, “Well, obviously that’s important!” haha! My school keys were needed because without them, I couldn’t get into the school! We decided I could still survive without my tissues and lotion in my purse. The sunglasses were tricky for some kiddos. Many thought I definitely NEEDED them. I explained that sometimes I forget my sunglasses, but I’m still able to drive myself to and from school and home!
I also created some more hands-on and concrete learning activities to continue our study of Determining Importance! This pack is available in my TpT store – let’s take a look at what we did in my classroom!
Remember the items displayed on my table at the beginning of this post? Working together as a class, I told the students that we were going to make a pizza! I laid out a variety of different pizza ingredients: crust, pepperoni, cheese, olives, pizza sauce, and mushrooms.
BUT, there was a catch with our pizza-making that day! I told the kids they could only choose THREE items to make their pizza! They had to choose the MOST IMPORTANT ingredients to make their pizza!
After LOTS AND LOTS of discussion about why we don’t NEED pepperoni to make a pizza (“But Miss DeCarbo, I looooooooove pepperoni on my pizza!!!”), we decided on our three most important ingredients: We all agreed that without the pizza crust, it’s not a pizza! That item was IMPORTANT. The class also agreed that we needed to use our last two ingredients for sauce and cheese. The pepperoni was yummy, but it was not absolutely needed to make and eat pizza! It was a really fun and highly engaging way to get them to critically think and determine importance!
Here is a snapshot of some of the printables that go along with this pack. If you can’t use food in your classroom, I’ve re-created this activity with ingredient picture cards for the pizza that you can use as you have this discussion and create your anchor chart together.
After we had a lot of concrete experiences, it was time to let the kids have a little hands-on fun in small groups! I used my Important Mission envelopes from my Determining Importance Pack to get my kids thinking and analyzing important items vs. extra, unnecessary items. Here’s a picture of what the “mission envelopes” look like:
Each “adventure” contains SIX items that someone could possibly bring along with them on the various “trips.” For example, in the picture below, the cards display six items someone could possibly take on a trip to the beach.
The challenge? The kids can only choose THREE items to take on their trips and these three items need to be the most IMPORTANT items that are truly NEEDED for the trips!
This may sound easy at first, but my kids found out that some items were really hard to decide on! My heart was so HAPPY because my kids were continuously discussing and analyzing each item with one another. Talk about critical thinking skills being activated!
In the picture above, my kids were having a serious debate. They were deciding whether their third item should be a towel or the sunglasses. “Can we bring four items with us to the beach, Miss DeCarbo?” “No, sorry!! You can only bring your three most important items!”
(Enter groans and a lot more active discussion among the kids!)
(They eventually settled on sunscreen, a bathing suit, and the towel. They told me that they would put sunscreen on their eyelids so their eyes did not burn, and they could go sit in the shade for a bit if the sun was too bright!) Haha!
These students determined that the three most important items for their trip to a Deserted Island was food, water, and clothes. They had to rule out a book, a tent, and an iPad! 😉
Each “adventure pack” comes with recording sheets that allow your students to sort items of importance vs. extra items. The recording sheets also contain a critical thinking question in which the kids had to justify their reasoning for bringing the items they choose.
We applied our learning by sorting fact strips related to a specific topic onto an anchor chart. I read a fact on a sentence strip and the students had to discuss and decide whether the fact was important to the text or whether the fact was just “interesting” or “extra.”
My Determining Importance Pack contains sorting cards on various topics that you can use to complete this same activity with your students! Students can also cut and paste the important vs. extra facts onto a recording sheet of their own.
Passages to practice determining importance and engaging graphic organizers that you can use within your small groups or for read alouds with this reading strategy are also included within the pack:
I hope you enjoyed reading about our Determining Importance unit! If you’d like to grab this reading strategy pack to use with your kiddos and in your classroom, please click HERE or on the picture below to check it out in my TpT store!
Feel free to use the image below on Pinterest to refer to and save these ideas and lessons!