Students benefit from guided instruction in how to differentiate between and less significant material in a text.
Previewing is an excellent strategy to support students’ understanding of the difference between primary and secondary details.
First, ask students to look at the pictures, and predict what each seems to be about, and well as why they are included in the section.
Second, have students review photographs within the text. With the latter, draw students’ attention to what additional information the caption provides. Ask students if the pictures (and captions) support, or alter their initial prediction.
Third, have students look at any other text features or chapter titles/headings. Lead the small group in a discussion of what information these details provide them as a reader. Ask them why they think the author may have included the features in the text.
Fourth, provide students with a list of important vocabulary (may be bolded in an informational text). Determine which words they know, which words need to be defined (or redefined if their current definition does not fit the context of this text), and what clues the words might give about the main or central idea of the text.
Fifth, ask students to read the first paragraph (introduction) and the last paragraph (conclusion) of the text (or first chapter).
Guide students to notice what the focus of the text/chapter seems to be. List any key ideas that emerge. Have students confirm or adjust their initial prediction in light of the reading. Invite students to share what they are thinking and why they are thinking it.
The teacher will need to model this protocol a few times (I Do) with the entire class and discuss how the students can use the strategy in their own reading. Guided practice would be the next step (We Do) before allowing students to work independently (You Do).