5 The importance of ideas in an information text

Another way to help your students is to show them how to distinguish the relative importance of information in a text. You will now read a case study of a teacher who did this with her class.

Case Study 3: Establishing the importance of the ideas in an information text

Ms Anjali is a Class VII teacher in Jabalpur. Here she describes how she helped her students classify the information in a science text according to its importance.

I selected a chapter on respiration in organisms in our science textbook (see the passage in the first column of Table 2, below). We began by reading the first text aloud together. Then my students re-read it silently on their own.

Having handed out a copy of the partially completed table to each student, I paired them up and asked them to identify and note down in the respective columns the ideas that they considered to be more important and those that were less important in the text. Once they had finished, they summarised the key science concepts presented in the passage in the space at the bottom of the table.

While my students worked, I walked around the classroom monitoring them. Where I saw that they were progressing well, I praised and prompted them with further questions. Where I noticed they were struggling, I tried to guide them. Table 2 shows an example of the notes that they made.

Table 2 Identifying the relative importance of the ideas in an information text. (Source: National Council of Educational Research and Training, 2007)
Respiration in organisms More important ideas Less important ideas
Have you ever wondered why you get muscle cramps after heavy exercise? The cramps occur when muscle cells respire anaerobically. The partial breakdown of glucose produces lactic acid. The accumulation of lactic acid causes muscle cramps. We get relief from cramps after a hot water bath or a massage. Can you guess why it is so? Hot water bath or massage improves circulation of blood. As a result, the supply of oxygen to the muscle cells increases. The increase in the supply of oxygen results in the complete breakdown of lactic acid into carbon dioxide and water.
Key science ideas

This exercise is useful in helping students to focus on the main points in information-based texts. In so doing, they are practising their reading skills and improving their understanding of science at the same time.

See Resource 3 for an example of a completed table for the passage referred to in this case study.

Activity 5: Getting your students to distinguish the relative importance of the ideas in an information-based text

You should refer to Resource 4 for this activity and use Case Study 3 as a guide.

Choose a passage or a page from one of your subject textbooks or make copies of printouts or suitable web pages that you have located online. Organise your students into pairs and ask them to decide together which information is more and less important in terms of the key concepts of the subject. As they work, monitor their reading comprehension and their subject understanding. Make a note of your observations. Use this information to plan the content of the subsequent lesson to ensure that it responds to their needs.

4 Finding the key points in an information text