Determining Importance in Reading and Math

My district’s reading focus strategy for the month of February is determining importance, which has always been a tough one for my kiddos.  Our reading specialists had some great ideas to offer, which I tweaked to fit my students’ needs. 

I started my guided reading last week with a mini lesson on “What’s in your Backpack?”  I asked my students to sort the items they packed in their backpacks that morning into two categories: “Very Important” and “Not So Important.”  Items that went in the “Very Important” column included their binders, laptops, lunches—things that they couldn’t have made it through the day without.  They were pretty good at determining which items were not absolutely crucial, such as markers, erasers, extra books, etc. for the “Not So Important” column.
I then explained that we were going to practice determining importance in our Raz Kids books in a similar manner.  While they read, they used the graphic organizer to record information that they deemed important to helping them understand the author’s main purpose.  I had to remind many of them to not just put down interesting facts because many of them were just details and were not crucial to understanding the topic.  You can grab the graphic organizer along with the backpack handout for free by clicking either image. 
This was a great segue into my math focus for the week—making sense of word problems.  I don’t know about yours, but many of my darlings take the first two numbers they see and either add or subtract them without really comprehending what the question is asking.  Many of my students are struggling readers so word problems are VERY difficult for them.

I made up a couple of very lengthy word problems with a lot of unnecessary information and had my kids sort the information based on its importance.  I was thrilled to see that the strategies we practiced in reading transferred over and really helped them determine what was/wasn’t important to solving the problem.  Here’s an example worksheet from one of my sweet kiddos with all of his work beautifully shown.:) 
You can download this two-page handout for free by clicking either image below. 
I’d love to know how YOU teach determining importance in reading or math or both.  Please share!:)


  1. What a great lesson! It is so important to teach our students to determine importance in math. Thank you for sharing you method and your free download. I will be using it this week with my students in small group :)

  2. What a great freebie! I'm going to use it with my 3rd grade math intervention group. Thank you.

    Math is Elementary

  3. I love how you tied determining importance it into math as well! What a great lesson! Thanks for sharing!

    Learning to the Core

  4. Love it! Especially the way that you connected the comprehension skill, determining importance, to math word problems. The backpack idea is genius! Big thanks!

    Kathy's First Grade Adventure

  5. Love the format for the math problems!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Cathy from

  6. Love the way you organized this. Pinned it and printed it! Thanks for sharing.

    Looking From Third to Fourth

  7. My students struggle with determining importance. I will definitely try this with them. Thank you.

    1. P.S. I notice you are getting close to 300 followers. I am your newest one.

  8. Thanks for the freebie and thanks for linking up with us at All Things Upper Elementary! :)

  9. I love the backpack warmup! I'm definitely using this, thanks for sharing. :)

  10. The backpack idea is a great way to introduce determining importance! Very cute!

  11. The backpack idea is great. I would always use a similar concept in my mini lesson. It is something I got from Jessica Meacham, maybe. I would tell them I was going to the gym and I didn't want to bring my purse with me. So I had to determine what was the most important things to have with me. The backpack idea would be a great follow up.
    I also love that you carried it over to math. That is a fabulous resource. Thanks for sharing. :)

  12. Absolutely LOVE how you incorporated determining importance into math!! My partner teacher and I have this reading standard as our goal to integrate between reading, writing, and math - this this document was PERFECT! Thanks so much for sharing :)