4 Finding the key points in an information text
Activity 4: Identifying the key points in an information text
Read the short passage below (Ramadas, 2007) about cyclones. As you read, look for the following features:
- a definition of a cyclone
- an example of a cyclone
- a description of a cyclone
- a comparison of a cyclone to something else
- clarification of what happens in a cyclone or when it happens
- other aspects of a cyclone.
How many of these features can you find? Underline them all.
In October and November every year cyclones form over the Bay of Bengal. A cyclone is a huge rotating storm. It could be hundreds of kilometres wide. Cyclonic winds blow very fast – up to 300 kilometres per hour (three times as fast as an express train). They make huge waves and blow sea water far into the land, causing floods, uprooting trees, destroying houses and killing tens of thousands of people.
Compare your ideas with ours:
- A definition of a cyclone: ‘A cyclone is a huge rotating storm.’
- A comparison of a cyclone to something else: ‘Cyclonic winds are three times as fast as an express train.’
- A description of a cyclone: ‘A cyclone can be hundreds of kilometres wide. They make huge waves and blow sea water far into the land.’
- Clarification of what happens in a cyclone or when it happens: ‘Cyclones form over the Bay of Bengal in October and November.’
- Other aspects of a cyclone: ‘Huge waves’, ‘floods’, destruction, death.
As you will have noted, information-based text will not necessary include all the features that have been presented above; nor will they necessarily occur in the same order.
Now try doing this with a more difficult text. Read the passage below (Augusta-Palmisano et al., 2002), which is from a science textbook. When you have finished, make a quick sketch of an electrical circuit.
Electricity is a form of energy. It is produced by the movement of electrons. But do you know what actually happens when you flip a switch to turn on the light, or the computer, or the television set? Why don’t all the lights go out in your house when one light bulb burns out? Electricity is very useful, but if people do the wrong thing, electricity can also hurt. In some cases it can even kill. Safety is key when it comes to electricity.
How does electricity flow? Electricity flows through paths, or electric circuits. Electrons travel through these paths, but only if they can move around the path and get back to where they started. If the path is broken, the electrons will not move.
A closed circuit allows electrons to travel through an unbroken path and back to where they started. An open circuit has a break in the path. Electrons will not move through an open circuit. All circuits must contain three things: connecting conductors, an energy source and a load. A conductor is a device, such as a wire, that allows electricity to pass easily through it. An energy source, such as a battery, is what gives the circuit its energy. A load is a device or appliance that uses the energy, such as a light bulb.
Compare your ideas with ours:
- A definition: ‘Electricity is a form of energy. It is produced by the movement of electrons.’
- An example: ‘Turn[ing] on the light, or the computer, or the television set.’
- A description: Electrons travel through a closed path. If the path is broken they will not move. Electrons must move around the path and get back to where they started.
- Clarification: ‘An open circuit has a break in the path. Electrons will not move through an open circuit.’
- Other aspects: A conductor, such as a wire; an energy source, such as a battery; a load such as a light bulb.
Pause for thought
Information texts often contain a lot of detail, which can make it difficult for students to locate the key points. However, by actively looking out for the common features of such texts, they will be easier to follow. In the next activity you will practise looking for such features.