In the previous lesson of this unit, we asked questions about our topic to help drive our research. In today’s lesson we are reading just to gather information to use in our informational writing. Note taking is difficult for students because it is hard to determine what is important enough to take away from their reading. After doing some research on my own, I came across an activity on Read, Write, Think. It is called FACT FRAGMENT FRENZY (www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/interactives/factfrenzy/opening.html) On this interactive website students are shown how to read through a passage and find the most important information from what they have read and write those as notes. What I liked about this resource is it helps students focus on the most important words in the passage and use those words to convey information in their own words. To introduce today’s lesson I ask students how we know what is important and what is not important while we read. I received a variety of responses so I tell students we have to learn how to just look at the important words in a passage that will help us explain and describe our topic.
To show students what I’m talking about, I go to the FACT FRAGMENT FRENZY site and let students watch the short video that shows students how to read for the important details in a passage. The video takes students step by step through this process. First it tells students to read straight through the information. Next, it tells students to go through the important sentences and look for the words that provide information. It asks students to take out words like and, the, a, etc. Next it tells students to list the words that are left in order to see the important details and information they need to get out of the information they’ve read.
During this time students actually get to practice on the site with several passages. My classroom has a desktop at each work station and students sit in groups of 4 and 5 at these work stations. Students work together to go through the passages and practice looking at the most important information. As students are working, I circulate the room and work with each group at some point to help clear up challenges students may have and to guide the practice.
During this time, I actually created a note taking sheet for students to use with taking notes on their own topic. Although this is an independent activity, I begin this section of the lesson with walking the students through this activity. Students begin by stating what their topic is by answering a question about the topic. Next students read through their textbook for more information. To narrow our writing down to just basic information about the topic, I direct students to just focus on 3 to 4 interesting sentences in their reading to use in their writing. I also tell students to focus their search for information around the questions they came up with in the previous lessons and their background knowledge. This is students’ first experience with researching and writing about what they are researching, so I stick to minimal information to focus the process of gathering and presenting information about a topic. As we work through the activity, students are asked to only list the important words from those sentences. Next I have students put the information they’ve gathered into 3 to 4 sentences. I tell students to close their books and based on what they have read, put the information in your own words. I emphasize describing and explaining their topic in a way their reader can understand. Afterwards, students are asked to pick one more interesting piece of information they feel their reader should know about the topic and explain this in their own words. To sum up the activity, I ask students to take those sentences they’ve created and put them into a paragraph that will later become their body. I circulate the room as we go through to see students working and to help where students need help.
After students have completed their notes, we have a short discussion about what students did and how they were able to take notes. Students have glued the note taking sheet into the Interactive Writing Notebook so I collect them to take a look at students’ notes. I use this to determine if students need more practice and to focus conferences for the next day.