If your students struggle with determining what’s important or they think “it’s all important!” make sure they have a clear purpose for reading. A purpose stated as a question is even better. Questions like “What is the author’s point of view? What are details in the sources that make me think so?” or “How did the Jewish resistance members reveal their courage?” act as a guide, helping students monitor for what is important. The student can more easily say, “I need to pay attention to this information because it helps me think about my purpose” or “This information doesn’t help me so I’m going to keep reading.”
A few suggestions…
Post the Purpose
Post the purpose or ask students to write it on a sticky note as a reminder and reference. Below are images from several lessons I’ve given; I do this for students in grades 2-8. Teacher-determined purposes can act as mentors for the kinds of questions students need to ask on their own. When you do ask students to set their own purposes for reading, ask them to write it on a sticky note!
Some purposes are content-driven (e.g., What do paleontologists do?) and some are skill-driven (e.g., How does the structure of compare/contrast help you identify key details? or What is one of the main ideas? What in the text makes you think so?)
Focus on purpose throughout the lesson
When you confer, ask the student to talk a little bit about what they’ve just read and then refer back to the purpose for reading (e.g., “So how does this part of the source help you respond to this question?” )
After students have had a chance to read-view-listen to a source as a whole, use the purpose as a guide for close re-reading of an important part of the source.
Turn the purpose for reading into a prompt for discussion and then writing in response to reading.
One last tip
Having a clear purpose can really make a difference when students are reading multiple sources on a topic!
Hope this helps.