How to Use an Index

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SWBAT use an index in order to answer questions about key details in a text.

Big Idea

Let the researching begin! Today's lesson shows students that an index is a useful tool when trying to find information quickly.

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

Today's lesson lends itself nicely to the research process.  Students will learn that an index is used to find information quickly.  Today's lesson supports standard RI1.5 because we are diving into learning about nonfiction text features. 

We are beginning to research animals in some of our expository writing units.  After today's lesson, my students will be able to find information pertaining to their research reports quickly by using an index.  The eventual goal is to have my student become independent researchers.  By learning how to use an index this will help set them up for success to achieve standard W1.7 in later lessons. I want to bring out this connection to my students and show them there is a purpose for today's lesson and that they will need to apply this skill in the future.  When teaching my students I always show these connections to them.  I want them to see the real world connections for what we are learning. 

For today's lesson you will need either the Smartboard Nonfiction Text Features.notebook or Activboard Nonfiction Text Features.flipchart lesson "Nonfiction Text Features."  You will also want to make 2 double-sided copies of each of the question sets, Animal Index Questions.pdf, that I have included.  These question sets go along with nonfiction books that I have in my classroom.  If you don't have the same books that I have you can use any nonfiction books in your classroom that contain indexes.  You will have to create questions that go along with those books.  I have a suggestion for making worksheets quickly and efficiently.  You can see this in my video: How to Make Your Own Worksheets.mp4.

Finding Basic Information on The Smartboard (Guided Practice)

10 minutes

I called my students to the carpet to sit in front of the Smartboard.  I started the lesson by stating the objective.  I said, "Today we are going to learn how to find information quickly by using an index."  I went into further detail about how an index is located in the back of the book and that it's a bit different from a glossary (which we learned about in yesterday's lesson).  I used one of my nonfiction books as an example.  I made the connection about how this will help us when we are writing our animal stories.  I told the students that we don't need to read a whole nonfiction book every time we are doing research on a specific topic.  We can pick out the information we need for our reports by looking in the index under the topics we are researching specifically.

We practiced answering questions using an index.  We worked together on pages 59-62 on the Smartboard lesson.  I showed students how an index could also be called a word list and that information is listed in alphabetical order just like a glossary is.  I had volunteers come up to the board, locate information on the index and answer the questions.  I made sure that students explained how they arrived at their answer.  I said, "How did you come up with that answer?" I did this to check for understanding and so my strugglers could keep hearing the process of how to find information.

These questions where fairly straightforward.  For example, the index for butterflies was posted for students to view.  One of the questions was, "What page can you find out what a proboscis is?  Where can you find information about a butterfly garden?"  I wanted my students to use the index to find specific information.  In the next section, I build on this foundation in my model for how to apply this knowledge to finding relevant information about our research topics.

Showing the Students How to Apply the Skill and Finding Information in the Text

20 minutes

Many standardized tests will ask students simple questions to see if they can use an index.  For example, they might post an index about Elephants.  They may ask the question "On which continents can elephants be found in the wild?"  Students will simply have to find the key word of continents or natural habitat and cite a page number.  It's true, students need to locate information within an index, but I wanted to go much deeper with this lesson.  I wanted to show my students the real world application of using an index in our research.

I decided to use the book "Elephants" by Martin Schwabacher and Lori Mortenson.  I took my question set and said, "Now I am going to model for you how to find my information for these questions and do so quickly and efficiently."

I read the first question: What are the many sounds elephants use to communicate with each other?

I modeled my thinking.  I said, "Now, I have to think about what the question is asking of me?  It's asking me about sounds, but I think there's actually a better key word to look under and that's communicate.  They could make lots of different kinds of sounds, but the question is asking me about how they communicate, so I'm going to look for 'communication' in the index."   I turned to the index, and said, "I need to remember that words are listed in ABC order in an index."  I found 'communication' and turned to the appropriate page number.  I said, "I am going to read this whole entire page, to make sure I don't miss any information.  I need to slow down and really use my close reading skills." I read the entire page and really brought out the key information for my students. 

Then I modeled how to rephrase the question as the beginning part of my answer.  I spoke as I wrote on my paper.  I spoke and wrote, "The many sounds elephants use to communicate with each other are trumpeting, squealing, crying, rumbling, and groaning."   Then I said, "Did everyone see how I rephrased the question as the first part of my answer? Did everyone see how I answered in a complete sentence?"

I continued to model how to pick out the key words from the question, find the information in the index, read closely, and answer in complete sentences for the rest of my questions in my question set.  Then it was time for my students to practice on their own.

Independent Practice With Partners

20 minutes

I had previously thought about how I would partner up my students (homogeneously today - see below), and I had my list ready.  In today's independent practice section, students need to read the questions, find the correct page number using the index, go to that page and read in order to locate the information.  When deciding on partner groups I knew I had to differentiate homogeneously by reading ability because my strugglers would need a book that had larger print and was a lower reading level to be successful with the task.

I notified students about who their partner was and gave them their books and questions.  They were allowed to sit at whatever table they wanted in the room and they got to work.  I started off by helping my strugglers to read the first question and guide them along with finding the information in the index.  Once they knew what page to look for the information, I moved on to the next group.  I continued circulating around the room, offering support to those who needed it.  I have a video of my students working here in the resource section (linked below).  This may give you an idea of what your classroom might look like when they do this activity. 

I also have some really high achieving students who completed the activity quickly.  I like to keep them busy so behavior problems don't start.  I have shown these students how to help others without doing the work for them.  You can also see them working with my strugglers doing this activity in the video: Learning to Use an Index.mp4.


5 minutes

I have a cat puppet that I hid under my teacher chair in the classroom.  I pulled the puppet out from under the chair and said, "Boys and girls, we have a new member of our class.  His name is Summary Sam.  Summary Sam is kind of a lazy cat and he likes to sleep for most of the day.  He just missed this great lesson because he was sleeping so we will have to summarize the lesson for him.  Who can tell Sam the most important parts of today's lesson?"

Not only was this incredibly motivating for my students, it is also great practice with the skill of summarizing.