In this activity students will rank information from a text by order of importance. This activity helps students to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. Sorting relevant and irrelevant information is useful when students are summarizing key points from a reading or as an organizational tool for writing. It is also the foundation for being able to make and evaluate strong arguments.
Decide whether you will use this activity as a comprehension tool with a fiction or non-fiction text or whether you will use it as a precursor to a writing assignment. • Typically this activity works best when the initial determination of relevant or irrelevant information is done individually and then shared out and discussed in either pairs or small groups. • Develop an assignment instruction sheet. • Put together a sample assignment to model (either a text or a piece of your own writing). • Create a graphic organizer that represents ranking with the most important on the top and least important on the bottom. A sample can be found here: http://bit.ly/V1Vbr4.
- Distribute assignment instructionsIf using this activity for reading comprehension, distribute the text. If using this as a planning tool for writing, provide a description of the writing assignment (narrative, non-fiction).
- Introduce Order of ImportanceDiscuss with students the value of distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant information. A student-friendly way to jumpstart the discussion is to ask whether anyone has ever given them TMI (too much information). Twitter is a good example to use here also, because there is a character limit. How do you decide what to include in your tweet?
- Conduct a mini-lesson on relevant and irrelevant informationDefine relevant and irrelevant information. Model the process and thinking with an example of your own. Either use a text where you identify the relevant and irrelevant information or think aloud about your writing process when deciding what information to include in your writing. You can also create a model situation and a few pieces of detail and ask students to think about which information is relevant and which is irrelevant. A good situation might be one in which students imagine they are investigating a crime scene, or students are on a jury trying to determine whether a person is guilty or innocent.
- Distribute the graphic organizerReview with students that the most important information should be at the top of the organizer and the least important information at the bottom. Encourage students to write in pencil because when placing information they may need to shift items around.
- Students rank information based on importanceIf using a reading, students could mark up the text by numbering the important information before filling in the graphic organizer. If using this as a writing support, have students think about what information is most important for them to include in their writing and what information they can leave out.
- Students justify their rankingsAsk students to justify their top 2-3 pieces of relevant information. Have them explain why this information is more relevant than the other information. Students could also justify 2-3 pieces of irrelevant information. This could be done in writing with Post-it notes on the graphic organizer or it could be done verbally with students working in pairs.
- Share and discussIf using a reading, a whole class discussion is useful here to see if students rank information differently and what their motivations were for the differences. If using this as a writing tool, pairs or small groups may be more effective for students to share their ideas for their writing.
- ReflectSample reflection questions include: “Why is it important to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information when reading and/or writing? How could this skill be useful to you in the future?” Examples of such skills are solving math word problems or writing with character limitations.