Trash and Treasure: Teaching students to identify key points from a text

Thanks to Zach Beamish-Cook for this!

Who is it for?

Anyone trying to help students to develop their skills in reading texts and identifying their key points. Mainly aimed at KS4/5.

Outline of the idea

A common problem in developing students' skills in reading texts is that they find it difficult to process a whole chunk of text at a time. If you ask them to highlight key terms then I often find that they highlight just about everything and struggle to work out what's really important and what is an aside. The idea here is that the first thing to get them to do is blank out (or “trash”) everything that isn't directly relevant. Tell them what the article is about and then get the students to black out anything that doesn't relate directly to the key issue.
Encourage them to be brutal and hopefully they'll end up with only the “treasure” of the text: the key things to take away.

Next Steps

Next time you ask them to read a text you should be able to tell them to think about what is “treasure” and what is “trash” in order for them to get to the heart of what a text is saying. It may take a few attempts at locating “trash” before they can locate treasure straight away, but persevere!

1 comment

  1. Mr Bigg says:

    I tried this with Year 10 today and at first they really struggled. Lots of comments like: “Surely it’s all important or it wouldn’t be in there!”

    If I were doing it again I’d spend much more time preparing them and pointing out that even though everything might be relevant, not everything on a page will be central to the piece as a whole. As we went through it was pointed out that things in brackets were likely to be subsidiary, and the second half of a composite sentence was less likely to be of prime importance. It might be worth highlighting this at the start!

    Finally, we did this as a group and I blacked things out on the whiteboard after bringing up the document in Word. This gave them a little more confidence than having to do it alone.

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