3rd graders are completing a "devastating weather" unit that incorporates two strategies that good readers use:1) making connections to what we know already, and 2) determining importance. How do good readers determine what's important when they read, especially nonfiction?
We practice the first strategy - making connections - by looking at an image on the board, such as this one. We discuss with our tablemates what we think we know about it, and then I help the students share their thoughts. 3rd graders LOVE to talk about weather, and a lot of them are experts already.
To practice the second strategy - determining importance - I begin the lesson by emptying the contents of my purse. I tell the students I am going for a walk after school, and I don't want to take my whole heavy bag. I ask the students to take a look at all the items, and tell me what they think is the most important thing I should take with me on my walk. They usually come up with my keys and my cell phone as the most important items. I tell them that they just "determined importance!"
We then apply the skill to our reading, and I show students how to pick out "keywords" - the important words, just like my keys were important - from a nonfiction passage about the weather we're studying. Then they learn how to use the keywords in a summary of no more than 30 words.
When we have practiced for several weeks, we choose one of our summaries and create a bookmark using a Powerpoint template. This helps students understand how to just get the main point across in their summaries since their is a limited amount of space!