Mentor Monday Linky 2/24/14: Determining Importance


Welcome to Mentor Monday everyone! This week’s topic focuses on the reading comprehension strategy, determining importance. This strategy really hits home for me this week. When I think about determining what’s important, it’s kind of like packing for a vacation, baking a new recipe, or even sorting out life events.
In about a week, I’ll be delivering my third child. It’s a wonderfully exciting time in my family’s life and we couldn’t be happier. But…there is a sense of urgency to get as much done as possible over the next week before we bring this new little miracle home. We’ve have to determine the most important things to get done and what will have to wait. Packing for the hospital, setting up the bassinet, stocking the house with diapers, grocery shopping, doing some baby laundry, reading books about having a new baby in your house to my boys, and above all, praying for a safe delivery and healthy baby. Those are just a few of the important things we’ve determined. Believe me, I’ve have lists all over the house with many other items on there, but I’ve learned to prioritize. 🙂

Determining Importance With Non-Fiction Text

What does determining importance mean when we are thinking about it as a reading comprehension  strategy? This reference page prepared by The Reading Lady summarizes what it means to determine importance with non-fiction text.

Click here to print out a copy of this from The Reading Lady website.
Guiding young readers to find the text that is essential vs. non essential is a critical strategy when reading non-fiction. When we can effectively determine what is important when we read, we can infer and synthesize more deeply as well.
My mentor text choice this week is Animals Nobody Loves by Seymour Simon. Simon is a great writer of non-fiction. Uniquely, he does not use very many text features in this books. Animals Nobody Loves has such a catchy title. My thirds instantly gravitated toward it. Simon highlights the lives of animals that we humans have come to either fear or hate. Sharks, tarantulas, bats and more are all featured in this book.



I use the Alphaboxes strategy for determining importance with non-fiction text. Linda Hoyt crafted the strategy years ago in her book, Read, Revisit, Retell. I particularly love using this strategy when reading chapters in a text book. My third graders would glue the organizer into their Social Studies Interactive notebooks, and use it while reading the chapter. When you read an important word in the text you add it onto the alphaboxes. The key is to train students to be highly selective with their word choices.
I would say, “Not every word deserves or has earned the right to be on Alphaboxes. We need to think about which words are the most important to the text.”
I took this strategy a step further and had my students use it to write summaries of what they read. They had to use as many words from Alphaboxes as they could. My class loved that part of the challenge. You may be thinking, “Wow! Kids getting excited about writing a summary?” Believe me, they did and they became very good at it. Alphaboxes became my go to strategy for determining importance with non-fiction text, but it also had a unintended consequence.  It was the perfect scaffold for my struggling writers! I highly recommend trying it out and see what happens with your students.
Back to Animals Nobody Loves. You can each assign one animal per student and have them use the alphaboxes organizer while they read it. The text is manageable enough because each animal featured has only one page of text. Then have them write a short summary to present about their animal to the class. (BTW- This makes a really nice organizer for researching too.)
Click here to print out a copy of the Alphaboxes organizer
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book and how you teach determining importance. Please share in the comments below.

*Note to fellow teacher bloggers: If you’d like to link up your post with a mentor text about this literacy topic, THANK YOU!
Here is a link to the Mentor Monday button I’ve created. Please use it at the beginning of your post to make it easily recognizable on all link-ups. Also, please name your post Mentor Monday Linky 2/24/14: Determining Importance. You’ll find the link-up at the end of this post. It will stay open until 11:30 P.M. Wednesday night 2/26/14.

I’m so excited to read your posts to learn about some other great picture books. Thank you for visiting my blog today! I’d love for you to follow me on Bloglovin‘ by clicking the heart on the blue book in the right sidebar. Please come back each week for Mentor Monday! :))


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  1. Emily, we were so on the same page this week, LOL! I think your post hit the nail on the head. I have Linda Hoyt's book and have not used it very much. Am excited to dig it out and read more since reading your post. I think your book choice would be a hit with my kids too!
    Burke's Special Kids

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