Last updated: 11/19/2021


Grade 3 - Determine Importance – Read About Water

  Subject:   English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)
  Grade:   Elementary, 3rd Grade
  Unit Title:  

Determine Importance – Read About Water

  Approx. Number of Weeks:  

About 3- 4 weeks

Unit Summary:

This unit is focused on non-fiction reading skills.  Each skill that is taught will be modeled with texts on various topics and then practiced in nonfiction texts around water.  There are a total of five mini-lessons: Record Important Ideas, Target Key Information, Distinguish Your Thinking from the Author’s, Construct Main Ideas from Supporting Details and Same Topic – Different Main Idea.  (The first four mini-lessons can be read about in detail in The Comprehension Tool Kit: Book Four - “Determining Importance”.)

Next Generation Skills Addressed:
   Collaboration & Communication
   Creativity & Innovation
   Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
   Research & Information Fluency
   Social & Emotional Intelligence

1. What will students know and be able to do?


RI.3.2 - Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

RI.3.3 - Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

RI.3.6 - Distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.

RI.3.8 - Describe the logical connection between particular sentences and paragraphs in a text (e.g., comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in a sequence).

RI.3.9 - Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.

Essential Understandings:

We read non-fiction to learn and remember information.

What we determine to be important in text depends upon our purpose for reading it.


Essential Questions:

Students will know:

  • Readers merge what they already know with important information to expand their understanding on a topic.
  • Readers sort and sift details from important information to answer questions and arrive at main ideas.
  • Readers identify details that support larger concepts.
  • Readers use information to develop a line of thinking.

Students will be able to:

  • Record important ideas
  • Respond to texts and information with thoughtful questions, interpretations and responses
  • Sort and sift interesting details from important ideas
  • Identify details that support larger concepts
  • Contrast what they think with the author’s opinion
  • Construct main ideas from supporting details
  • Relate new information to important ideas
  • Learn a variety of ways to take notes

2. How will we – and they – know?

Authentic Performance Task:

Present scenario about conserving water to establish a purpose for reading.  Allow each child to respond to the scenario before you begin. 

“Write about how and why should we save water.  Create a plan that will help your family save water.”

Common Benchmark Assessment:

Pre-assessment (Required)    

Prior Knowledge; Level or Skills; Vocabulary Knowledge

Read the article “Drinking Water:  Bottled or From the Tap?”  Students will

  • Determine the main idea of the article use evidence from the
    article in order to write about the author’s point of view and their point of view on bottled water

Summative Assessment (Required)    

Evidence of student understanding of the essential understanding

Read the article “Drinking Water:  Bottled or From the Tap?”  Students will

  • determine the main idea of the article
  • use evidence from the article in order to write about the author’s point of view and their point of view on bottled water

When compared to the pre-assessment, a successful post-assessment will show growth in these areas:

  • Separates interesting details from bigger ideas and important information
  • Distinguishes between the reader’s perspective and the author’s perspective
  • Identifies and uses supporting details to come up with the bigger ideas.

Student Self Assessment and Reflection (Suggested)

What did you learn in this unit that you can apply as you read in science and social studies?


Gr34point rubric.pdf

3. What learning activities will students participate in?

Learning Activities:

NOTE:  In each mini - lesson, you will model with a text that is NOT about water and then give students time to practice the skill in their water texts found in your kit.

Session 1-2: Record Important Ideas

Students will record authentic information and ideas, respond to information with questions, interpretations and feelings. 

Students will ask and explore lingering questions.  Model with the text “Animal Helpers” (pages 40-41), making a three column chart labeled “Facts, Questions and Responses”.  Students will practice using their own charts in their water books.

Session 3-4: Target Key Information

Students will code texts to “leave tracks” of their thinking.  Students will paraphrase to record information so that they remember it. 
They will acquire new knowledge and merge thinking with it.  Continue to use the text “Animal Helpers”, which they will mark up to show their thinking.  Marking will include background knowledge, questions, and responses.  Help students see relationships in the information why looking for language that pertains to order, sequence, and time.    Readers will use paraphrased language as they make notes.  Students will practice independently using post-it notes or copies of a water text to “leave tracks” of their thinking as they read.


Session 5-6: Distinguish Your Thinking From the Author’s

Students will understand that what they think is important is not always the same as what the author is trying to convey.

They will identify and summarize the author’s perspective as well as their own. 
Model with the text “Turn it Off”, by demonstrating how to read through a text
noticing what they think is most important and comparing that to what the article is mainly about.  A list of interesting ideas can be generated
and then checked to see if those things match what the article is mainly about.  Students will practice independently using post-it notes or copies of a water text to show their point of view and the author’s point of view.   

Important note: Please DO NOT use the text “Stop Kids from Smoking” listed in The Comprehension Toolkit.  (This text is used as an assessment in a fourth grade unit.)


Session 7-8: Construct Main Ideas from Supporting Details

Students will distinguish the details from the bigger ideas in the text.  They will
articulate how these details support and develop the larger topic or idea.  Model with “At Home in the Artic” and create a three-column labeled “topic, detail, and response”. 
Model thinking aloud to distinguish between details and bigger ideas.  Students will practice independently using “topic, detail, response” charts with their
water books.  Teachers can set this up in a jigsaw to promote collaboration.     


Sessions 9-10: Same Topic/ Different Main Ideas

Students work with two texts on the same topics that have different main ideas.  Model using “Breathing Underwater” and  “The Comeback Humpback”.  (Or any other two articles on the same topics with different main ideas).  Use all that you have learned about main ideas to demonstrate how the topic (whales) is different than the main idea.  


Session 11-12:  Culminating Activity

“Using all that you have learned about water, revise your plan.  Write up a plan
for how you and your family will conserve water.”

   NOTE: This could be a topic for your persuasive writing unit.


Session 13: Assessment

Drinking Water:  Bottled or From the Tap?”

Discipline Specific Considerations:

Specialized Terminology


Water Cycle



Suggestions for modeling skills during mini-lessons appear in optional  texts ->

Books for independent practice:

Save Water by Burnham

The Water Cycle by Kalman

Water Dance by Locker

Water Everywhere (DK Reader Level 2) by Atkins          

Water Up, Down And All Around by Rosinsky

Why Should I Turn off the Tap by Knight


For mini-lessons in sessions 1-4: “Animal Helpers”  pages 40-41

(Comprehension Tool Kit: Tool Kit Texts by Harvey and  Goudvis)

For mini-lessons in sessions 5-6: “Turn it Off” page 56

(Comprehension Tool Kit: Source Book of Short Texts by Havery and Goudvis)

For mini-lessons in sessions 7-8: “At Home in the Arctic” page 42

 (Comprehension Tool Kit: Tool Kit Texts by Harvey and  Goudvis)


For minilessons in sessions 9-10:  “Breathing Underwater” page 28

 (Comprehension Tool Kit: Tool Kit Texts by Harvey and  Goudvis) and “The Comeback Humpback” page 86

(Comprehension Tool Kit: Source Book of Short Texts by Havery and Goudvis)


Other articles about water and water conservation. 

Your librarian may have other texts about water.

Short non-fiction texts for practice can be found in the third grade Scott Foresman text, Book 2, Whole Wide World.

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