Building Mathematical Comprehension - Chapter 7

Chapter 7 - Determining Importance
"Of the comprehension strategies, determining importance is certainly one of the most valuable when reading mathematical resources." (pg. 210)
"Unless {students} learn to recognize important and useful information, they grasp at facts, no matter how irrelevant they may be to the mathematical work at hand." (pg. 199)
 I saw this on Pinterest and thought it fit in really well with the chapter (source is unknown - it just led to the photo).  There is even a little explanation of a minilesson you can use with this image on pages 214 and 215.   
If you can't see it clearly, the title says, "Mrs. Hunter's Class is Catching the Important Parts in Our Reading".  I love the idea of using a strainer/colander to sift out the important ideas. 
So how do we get students to determine what is important rather than what they find interesting?  Students need explicit modeling.  Just as in reading, we teach our students about the features of text we can rely upon to help us (bold text, headings, illustrations, diagrams, etc.), we need to carry those explicit teachings over into math instruction. 
When modeling, you can use the following ideas as your minilessons (pg. 207):
* finding the purpose for reading
* activating background knowledge to make mathematical connections
* knowing which text features may aid in the location of critical information
* recognizing when to pay attention to the text
* determining what may be ignored without detracting from the meaning
* discovering the relationship of facts and details to the big idea
* assessing the value of the text relative to the purpose for reading (if it contains no relevant information or if it requires careful reading)
I have to admit, this one scares me a bit with primary students.  I imagine pages covered in yellow highlighter simply because not only is it fun, but it makes a really cheerful page!  Luckily, the authors recognize this and say, "highlighting only works when the person highlighting is actively considering the parts of the text that merit a highlight." (pg. 208)
One thing you can try is using sticky notes alongside the highlighting.  If a student highlights a sentence, they can use a sticky note to jot down why they decided that sentence was so important.  This might backfire and keep some students from wanting to highlight at all.  Another suggestion is giving two different colors to highlight with - one for important ideas and the other for ideas that are important to the individual.
Since students do have a hard time separating interesting from important, we need to "help students separate fact and details of purely personal importance from those that are crucial for making mathematical meaning."  How?  Model, model, model.  When I'm modeling for my students, I still feel silly and think if anyone walked in they would see right through my over-acting.  However, sometimes kids need that to really grasp the idea.  Oh, and if you don't feel comfortable with what you should be saying during think alouds and modeling, the author gives some great examples on pages 211-214!
Oh, and a little FYI...I don't generally use highlighters with my kids anyhow.  I just ask them to use yellow crayon.
Read a Little, Think a Little
The third strategy is to break a large piece of text into smaller, easier to digest pieces.  I often model this strategy in reading for my kiddos who struggle to comprehend, but read very fluently.  After reading a few sentences, stop and think aloud:
What did I just read?
What was it mostly about?
However, we know that in word problems it is easier to break things down to the sentence level.  I teach students to look for the following: 
Question - what am I being asked to solve? 
Information - what are the important numbers I need to solve this problem?
Key Words - am I supposed to add, subtract, etc.?
Here are a couple of other Pinterest finds you might enjoy.  These come from the site iTeach 1:1


 What tips and tricks do you have when teaching students about determining importance? 

1 comment:

Martha and Wendie said...

I love the strainer and noodles idea. I agree that the key to all this great teaching is model, model, model.
I created a freebie to help with the highlighting strategy.

2 Smart Wenches

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