Lesson 1 | Lesson 2

Lesson 1 Determining Importance – Cross-out Strategy

Purpose/ Rationale: 

When asked to highlight the important parts of text, many students underline or highlight the entire article.  The Cross-out Strategy teaches students to focus on the important words because they cross out the unimportant words.  Once these words are eliminated, students are asked to do something else with the leftover words such as put them into Cornell Notes by synthesizing the important ideas.  Students may then be asked to write a summary of the information.


Short piece of text, preferably non-fiction  (2 to 3 paragraphs) copied for each student; pencil or 2 highlighters of different colors; binder paper for Cornell Notes; overhead of the article.


Read the piece to the students, as they follow along.  Model the cross-out process on the overhead by “thinking aloud” as you cross out the non-essential words in the first paragraph.  Depending on the sophistication of your students' skill level, you may wish to alert students that you are crossing out most of the prepositions, adjectives, adverbs, and articles.  Leave most of the nouns, proper nouns, and verbs.

After the first paragraph, ask them to help you with the second paragraph, asking them for the words to cross out.

Students complete the remainder of the article on their own.  After completion, students can be asked to transfer the remaining information into Cornell Notes format, placing the important words to the left of the line, and an explanation or definition in their own words to the right. 

Finally, students are ready to write a summary at the bottom of their Cornell notes page.

Any or all of the Cornell Notes and summarizing procedure may need to be modeled with the students, depending on their level of competence.  

As students become more familiar with the strategy, less scaffolding and modeling will be required. 

Lesson 2  Determing Importance – Vertical Arrow Graphic Organizer

Purpose/ Rationale:

After you have front-loaded the vocabulary associated with your lesson, students may be prepared to determine the important facts or ideas about a piece of text.  One way to accomplish this is to ask students to answer questions about the information, and place the information into a graphic organizer.  By using the same graphic organizer with several different subjects, students become accustomed to asking about the five W’s and the H when they encounter new material in any subject and establish a thinking pattern that can assist them in comprehension.  Having students answer questions about a piece of text creates curiosity in the material for the students.  Once they have answered the simple questions of the Five W’s, they have a mindset to create their own questions and dig deeper into the material.


Vertical arrow for each student, overhead for the teacher, or, if doing in groups, large butcher paper arrows to be hung around the room.
(Publisher Vertical Arrow, PDF Vertical Arrow)

Markers, rulers, copy of the text for each student.   Once students have done the process once, they can create their own arrows using the first one as a template as a model.


1. To begin, choose a relatively short non-fiction piece (two or three paragraphs is fine)  

2. As part of the Springboard to Literacy Manual that our PRIDE leaders are creating for your use next year, we are choosing strategies that will be useful for many subject areas and that can be adapted for your use in different ways.  This Graphic Organizer will help students ferret out important information you want them to know, in addition it will assist in your teaching them to make questions (self questioning) that will hopefully engage them with the material at hand.  In addition, we are looking for the "Magic 7" strategies that can be used by the greatest number of teachers in the greatest number of classes and grade levels - so that students will come to you knowing something about a particular strategy.  I have used this Vertical Arrow in many different ways over the years, and find it to be very successful with even lower level learners.  Done in groups, it can even be used with different events to teach a particular topic, such as events of the Civil War.  Students given an event can create the arrow on large chart paper, which can then be displayed around the room or the activity can be done in Jigsaw format, where one student takes the group's arrow to another group and explains the event to other students.  I have designed this in publisher, so that you can modify it to meet your needs, as I have done here.  I know many of the 6th and  7th grade teachers use a concept called PERSIA.  I have changed the prompts to PERSIA before, with great success.  Since it was created with Windows XP, it may not be adaptable to your PC without some modifications.  Let me know if that is the case, and I will have Charlene work on it for us.


Determining Importance:

What: In order to make sense of both fiction and nonfiction text, students must be able to determine the important ideas and information.  Determining importance is a reading-to-learn strategy best learned using nonfiction text. 

 "Simply put, readers of nonfiction have to decide and remember what is important in the texts they read if they are going to learn anything from them." (Harvey, Goudvis p. 118)

Before attempting to determine the importance of any material, students must be equipped with the vocabulary of the material needed to facilitate understanding.






Poway Unified School District
13626 Twin Peaks Road
Poway, CA 92064

last updated: 09/15/2008