How to Teach Determining Importance in Reading | Interactive Read Aloud


Professional Development

March 20, 2021

How to Teach Determining Importance in Reading

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Use these activities and ideas to help your readers understand determining importance.

“No, we don’t need that,” is a phrase I found myself saying a lot to my kids when we leave the house. They are in a phase of wanting to take all their toys and things with us when we leave the house to go anywhere.

I’m totally fine with them taking a favorite stuffed animal or book with us to the grocery store, but we don’t need three lego men, the 2 inch thick book, a bucket, and baby doll, too. They aren’t important for going to the grocery store. There are things that I do need to take to the grocery store, however. I need my wallet, keys, and grocery list. Those are important to have with me. 

Determining what is important to take with us in life is a skill we use all the time. We also have to determine what is important when we read. What do we need to hold on to as we read this book? What is important to remember after we finish this story? Let’s talk about how to teach determining importance today! 

Why is teaching determining importance important? 

My daughter wants to bring lots of her toys to the store when we leave, but we can’t bring them all. There isn’t enough space, and they aren’t important to where we are going. Just like there isn’t enough space for my daughter to bring all her toys, students can’t remember every detail from a story they are reading. They have to be able to determine what the important parts are and remember those parts. 

We teach students to determine importance because we want them to develop a deep meaning of the text. We want them to understand what they are reading.

Simply put, determining importance is when readers read a text and sort through information to figure out what is important and what is just an interesting detail.  As they do this, they are monitoring their own thinking about the text. The more they think about what they are reading, the more they will comprehend. 

3 ideas for teaching determining importance

Introduce Determining Importance

First, start by grabbing students’ attention with an introduction. One way to introduce determining importance is to tell students you are going for a sleepover tonight at your sister’s house, and you still need to pack your bag.

  • What things will you need to put in your bag to take to your sister’s?
  • Will you need pajamas?
  • Will you need to bring a toy?

You might say, “My sister and I have already planned that we are going to watch a movie and make cookies. I won’t need a toy.” Then, continue to ask students for ideas of things you will need at your sister’s house and things you can leave at home. You can talk through other similar examples with your students, too. I’ve found that introducing it in a fun way makes it not seem as big and daunting for students to try in a text later. 

Practice with a Fiction Text

Another way to teach determining importance is to teach students to pay attention to the characters, setting, problem, and solution in a fiction story. These parts are the foundation of the story and the most important parts to remember. The whole story revolves around the characters and what is happening to them.

To help students practice determining importance, put a sticky note on the front of the book you are reading and label it with C, S, P, and S for characters, setting, problem, and solution. Then, jot down those parts of the story once you find them while reading. 

Practice with a Nonfiction Text

In nonfiction, we don’t have characters, a setting, a problem, and a solution. We have a topic and details, or information that supports the topic. First, you have to find the topic of the book. I always taught my students that in nonfiction, the topic is usually related to the title of the book.

After you find the topic, ask students to think about the important details that are teaching you about that topic. You could read a few pages with your students and write down facts from the book. Then you could sort them on a tree anchor chart. The more important they are, the higher they go on the tree.

Favorite books to use to teach this skill

There are lots of good fiction and nonfiction books to use to help you teach this skill! One of my favorites is The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle. Here are some other good books to use to teach determining importance:

  • The Stray Dog by Marc Simont
  • Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall

Not sure how to teach determining importance to your class? Need lesson plans to help you teach this skill?  We can help you! We have a bundle of interactive read aloud lesson plans that focus on how to teach these important skills:

These units all have detailed, scripted lesson plans with a teaching schedule, anchor charts, a reader’s strategy tool, and digital components for distance learning. You can save a ton by grabbing the bundle. Come check it out HERE!

Happy Teaching,


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Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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