Ms. Mc Bride was teaching animal adaptations to her 3rd grade science class. She wrote down the key idea of the chapter that the class is reading on the chalkboard: Adaptations are important to an animal’s survival. She taught her students that relevant information is that which is related to the key idea. She gave several examples of information from the chapter and asked students to practice deciding what is relevant and what isn't. Students then read the chapter. When they were done, Ms. McBride divided them into groups and had them brainstorm what they'd learned. Students in each group wrote a list of information they'd learned from the chapter, and then placed an R next to facts that they feel were relevant. Ms. McBride made a large T-chart and displayed the relevant and irrelevant facts from the groups' lists in front of the whole class.
Good readers can distinguish between important and unimportant information in nonfiction text. This ability is key to understanding the content that students must read. First, teachers should introduce students to the conventions of nonfiction text, such as by having them scan chapter titles, headings, subheadings, picture captions, maps, glossaries, and indexes. English language learners should receive plenty of support before they even begin to read the text. They need to understand that reading is not necessarily a front-to-back task.
Students can then learn to identify the title, table of contents, bolded words, photographs, captions, maps, headings, subheadings, and labels in a textbook chapter to preview information. These conventions of nonfiction text help students to identify what is important in the text. Even though the text as a whole was above the reading level