First and foremost, my students struggle with summarizing nonfiction. The problem is that nonfiction passages are usually JAM-PACKED with information (some of which is not that important). I realized that my students were struggling with this when we immediately jumped into coding the text. I handed highlighters out and asked students to highlight important information in a short paragraph and cross off interesting or irrelevant information (code the text.) I received the short paragraphs back with every word highlighted. OY! Time to go back to the drawing board, switch up my entire lesson, and have myself a good 'ol teachable moment!
(The ideas below are not entirely my own! I KNOW I read them somewhere, or learned them in some workshop, but heck if I remember! Feel free to remind me if you know!)
After my revelations, I asked my students:
Pulling from previous lessons we brainstormed these together:
We then discussed that finding important information in a text helps you, as a reader, to understand the text, it helps you to understand what you need (think interesting/irrelevant vs. important), and it helps you to remember what the text is about.
We then reviewed our "code the text" lesson. Coding the text can be used a number of different ways. If you read my "Writing Long Off Post-Its" lesson from a few weeks back, many teachers view the "stopping and jotting" as coding. We were simply coding for interesting vs. important information in nonfiction passages.
It was very interesting to hear their thoughts on this, but it was also fun to see the lightbulbs go off.
*Side note: this lesson was done after our unit on nonfiction text features. So, when talking to my kids about how to know if something is interesting vs. important, I kept saying, "Remember to look at your title and subtitles. These features tell you what you are about to read, and help you to focus in on the topic."
After the mini-lesson, I handed each student a very short, nonfiction reading passage. It was actually a 3rd/4th grade passage, which was PERFECT to start this lesson. As you read in my previous summarizing post, it's all about GOING SLOW, MODELING and GRADUAL RELEASE!
To start, we worked together and I modeled one passage to "code the text" (highlight important information and cross off interesting information). Then, I let my students go and "code the text" on their own. As my students got better, they began seeing that specific examples were always interesting, but almost never important to the text.
In the above picture, I LOOOVE that this kid highlighted the title. This helped him focus in on finding the important information on how things move vs. all the other irrelevant information in the paragraph about the metric system, customary measurements, blah, blah blah!
The next lesson in this unit will be about how we turn the important information from a text into a summary, and how we use this important information to identify the main idea!
Thanks for reading!