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Most Valuable Idea


In this activity, adapted from Gallagher’s Deeper Reading (2004), students will identify the most valuable idea in a reading, find an article that relates to that idea, and make a connection between the text, the article, and the student’s own life. The purpose of this activity is to help students see the connection between ideas in the text and the real world.

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Synthesizing
Main Idea vs Details

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Metacognition
  • Staircase of Complexity


  • Select a text with a valuable idea related to the content of the unit.
  • Read the text prior to the activity.
  • Prepare a sample text to use during modeling.
  • Find an article that links to the sample text to use during modeling
Activity Steps 
  1. Introduce Most Valuable Idea.

    Have a discussion with students about the difference between the main idea and the most valuable idea. Review the main idea as the central focus of the text. In many cases the main idea and the most valuable idea will be the same, but when analyzing a text with a specific lens the most valuable idea may not be the main idea of the text. For example, if analyzing a Supreme Court opinion, the main idea might relate to search and seizure, but within the opinion a tangential idea about another issue might prove to be more valuable.

  2. Read a sample text aloud.

    This text will be used to model the activity for students. This can be a separate text or a portion of the same text students will be using.

  3. Model the selection of the idea.

    Think aloud as you select the most valuable idea. It is important to not only talk about why you selected that particular idea but also why you did not select others.

  4. Find a sample article.

    Have your sample article ready prior to class to save time. Trace your research steps with students and explain how and where you found your article. Depending on the research experience of the students, a mini-lesson on research to find articles may be necessary, or you may need to provide a number of articles to choose from.

  5. Share a sample article.

    Share the sample article that relates to the most valuable idea you identified. Explain how the article relates to the idea. For example, if the most valuable idea in the text was about the importance of a strong family unit and the article was about adoptive parenting, explain how those two things connect with each other.

  6. Model the text-to-self connection.

    Model a written paragraph that connects the most valuable idea found in the text and the article to your life.

  7. Identify the most valuable idea.

    After students read the text, they identify the most valuable idea from that text. They justify that selection by explaining why they think that one idea is the most valuable.

  8. Find an article that relates to the idea.

    Research and select an article (newspaper or magazine) that relates to the most valuable idea. Encourage students to find a recent news article, rather than a historical article.

  9. Make a text-to-self connection.

    Students will write a one-paragraph response that makes a connection between the most valuable idea, the text, the article they found, and their own life.

  10. Reflect.

    Students can reflect individually or as a group, orally or in writing. · Which of the three steps (selecting the most valuable idea, finding an article, making a connection) did you find the most difficult? Why? · How did doing this help push your understanding and thinking about the text and the world? · How might this activity be useful in other areas of your life and academic career?

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