No Series: Organize Your Thinking to Analyze Text


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • SL:  Speaking and Listening
  • 5:  5th Grade
  • 1:  Engage effectively in a range of collaborative
    discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled)
    with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and
    texts, building on others'\x80\x99 ideas and expressing
    their own clearly.

    a. Come to discussions prepared, having read
    or studied required material; explicitly draw
    on that preparation and other information
    known about the topic to explore ideas under

    b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and
    carry out assigned roles.

    c. Pose and respond to specific questions by
    making comments that contribute to the
    discussion and elaborate on the remarks of

    d. Review the key ideas expressed and draw
    conclusions in light of information and
    knowledge gained from the discussions.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RI:  Reading Standards for Informational Text K-\x80\x935
  • 5:  5th Grade
  • 2: 
    Determine two or more main ideas of a text and
    explain how they are supported by key details;
    summarize the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Organize Your Thinking to Analyze Text

Lesson Objective: Students work in groups learning how to identify key concepts in text
Grade 5 / Social Studies / Reading
15 MIN
ELA.SL.5.1 | ELA.RI.5.2


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Try the strategy "Keep it or Junk it," a method that helps students identify key words and concepts in a text.How does Ms. Brouhard address uncompleted work with the "Jump In and Read" strategy?
  2. How are students taught to revise their thinking?


  • Private message to Lawrence Akintokun

Students are able to build their interpersonal skills and confidence. They become independent of the teacher's ideas. They work collaboratively with their peers to share ideas.I often use this idea of students teaching each other in my advanced placement classes. And it works very well

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  • Private message to Dyani Jill Salom

The "Keep It Or Junk It" activity is a very effective strategy that I will be using with my students in the future. Having the students do close reading is important, but as this video mentioned, it is more important to make sure they are understanding what they are reading and connecting with the material. This activity allows for the students to reread and identify the main points of the text. It also pushes the students to make those connections to the focus question. What I really liked about this activity was that the students had the opportunity to communicate with each other and learn from each other. As Ms. Brouhard said, "The students are running it." Here, they are taking initiative of their learning. As the students are working together, they are determining what is and what is not important to take away during this lesson. Watching this video also taught me the importance of modifying lessons. I was interested to see when Ms. Brouhard noticed that the students were not prepared or not exactly ready to begin the Keep It or Junk It activity the way she originally planned due to some confusion. She did a great job of scaffolding the activity to better prepare the students' skills and understanding beforehand.  

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  • Private message to Michaela Lee

The "Keep it or Junk it" activity is a great way to engage students in a deeper level of reading and understanding a piece fo text. Rather than having students read through and answer simple questions about the text, the students are asked to think more critically and leads to improved comprehension of the text. In the video, the teacher can used this activity to incorporate the whole class, except it was led by students in which they led the discussions. 

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  • Private message to Crystallyn Lee

This was a very great and insightful video that helped bring meaning to what a truly engaging lesson should look like. The Keep it or Junk it activity is awesome because it brings out the critical analysis skills of the students, and is also adjustable by having the teacher facilitate it more or less depending on what the class needs. This videos shows a combination of independent, group, and teacher-led activity. By seamlessly tying together this combination, students feel more engaged with what they are reading and start to deeply think about the text, rather than quickly dismissing it after answering some questions. 

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  • Private message to Nancy Rodriguez

This strategy is a great way to get students actively involved with their readings. It is truly important that students take the main idea of the reading and not just read it because they are told to do so. This activity will help them acknowledge the concepts being thought in the readings. This is a great way to have students engaged and working in collaborative ways sharing ideas and learning from each other.

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  • Keep It or Junk It
    Transcript of edited program
    Luna Productions

    Opening visuals: Intro, title and music then into the

    Keep It or Junk It
    Transcript of edited program
    Luna Productions

    Opening visuals: Intro, title and music then into the classroom

    Jennifer Brouhard (pronounced Bro-Hard) is a 5th grade teacher at Glenview Elementary in Oakland California.
    She noticed a common problem in student reading, and had an idea about how to help.

    So what I discovered after a number of years is that the kids are reading through a piece and it's done. so a lot of what they read is just read to finish. What I wanted them to do is really get into that text: break it down, what does it mean, how are you interpreting it? I want them to take this text and do something with it.

    Visual: Student reads from text

    “Keep it or Junk it”
    is a step by step process which enables students not just to read,
    but to identify the important concepts within the text
    and put them to use

    Visuals: Students working, example of “Keep It or Junk It” worksheet, including passage of text that is used in this class.

    Let’s watch Jennifer use ‘Keep it or Junk it” as part of a two-week social studies unit on the colony of Jamestown, Virgina.
    The students will read a short passage and select key words. They will then use Keep It or Junk It to help identify main ideas and answer a focus question. Ultimately they will use all of this to write a research essay on the topic.

    In class:
    Jennifer: When you look at your key words, they're going to help you answer that focus question, so would you guys read that focus question.

    Kids read aloud and in unison: What happened as a result of English settlement of Jamestown, Virginia?

    Jennifer: Okay so the words that you're gonna choose as you list your key words have to help answer that question. And right now you're gonna work in small groups and you're gonna have about 10 mins to come up with one group list of your key words.

    NARRATION: In this first stage of Keep It or Junk It, the kids work in small groups to generate a list of words that will later be considered by the entire class.

    Jennifer: One of the things I found is that kids were pulling out all kinds of important words. And there was no real way for them to tell what was an important word, what wasn't an important word.

    Visuals: Students working, one female student in cute pink jacket reads list of selected key words.

    Jennifer: Now you've got a list of words that you want to keep, because they all help you answer that focus question.

    Jennifer: It's a way for kids to link information.

    NARRATION: During their small group discussions, Jennifer helps students work through their ideas about the relative importance of each word.

    JOHN ROLFE SCENE -- Jennifer: Okay now I want you to take a look at John Rolfe and we talked about him yesterday right?

    Visuals: ... Student and teacher discussion continues, students realize why John Rolfe is not a key word ...

    Jennifer: They begin to see that John Rolfe isn't that big of a deal.

    Montage of kids putting up their words

    NARRATION: Once they've created their lists, each groups puts their words up on the board in preparation for the main phase of Keep It or Junk It.

    NARRATION: Then each student goes around with their own piece of paper and writes down which words they think are the most important.

    In class: Jennifer: Okay, we have our four students who are going to lead this right? One of you is going to write in the pair and one of you is going to do the Keep It or Junk It words, okay? And give the directions, so...

    Jennifer: I think the biggest thing is that the kids are directing it.

    Girl student: So we're gonna do keep it or junk it right now and B1 is tobacco, 1 keep, 2 junk, 3 cloud. Jennifer: And everybody must? Everybody must vote.

    Visuals: Students run exercise, calling out words, calling out: “One keep, two junk, three cloud: and classmates vote and explain their voting.

    Jennifer: What they do is they call on students, pick one or two people that want to keep the word. One or two people that want to junk the word

    Visuals: Students run exercise

    Jennifer: And the cloud is they're not quite ready to get rid of it. What I've found is that if the kids aren't really ready to junk the piece that word will keep showing up. Eventually what they see as they keep sorting and categorizing and keeping or junking is that most of those words they cloud, they'll junk.

    Visuals: Students run exercise

    Jennifer: So the first time they vote, and that's when they call on the kids to justify their opinion.

    Visuals: Students run exercise

    Jennifer: And then hopefully after that discussion you take another vote to see if anything has changed.

    Visuals: Students run exercise

    Jennifer: You know, this is their classroom. The more they run, the more they feel engaged in it, the more they run it, the more they're talking through their ideas, working through their own thinking.

    Visuals: Students run exercise

    Jennifer: I mean I think when the kids are talking more, They're in charge of their education. And I think as a teacher then you're in charge of how am I going to facilitate that.

    NARRATION: We filmed two classes with Jennifer this day and she used Keep It or Junk It differently in each one.

    Jennifer: You can see in each of the classes it was done in a different way. The big thing is you're looking at whose in the class. And while one class may need help with vocabulary, one class may need help with reading strategies, another class may need help with linking their ideas in a more sophisticated way. So it's not a set way to do it.

    NARRATION: In this class Jennifer realizes that some of the students have not done the reading and adjusts accordingly.

    In this class, when Jennifer realizes some students have not done the reading, she adjusts using yet another technique

    JB in classroom: Now I think there are some people who might not have done the work, am I right about that? So here's what we're gonna do--a quick Jump in and Read so that everybody can then circle their words.

    Jennifer: Jump in and Read is a way for me to check a couple of things. One when kids read something independently and their struggling, I want to make sure they're not just reading to get it done. I want to hear how they're reading it.

    NARRATION: Jennifer quickly reviews the rules of Jump in and Read.

    JB in classroom: Okay what's the rule on Jump in and Read ?
    How many sentences? Four.
    Okay, if you hear somebody start and you jump in late what do you have to do? Stop.
    If you look around and see somebody who hasn't jumped in before you're going to let them? Read.

    Text bullet points on screen

    Visual: Girl starts reading

    Jennifer: I never do it as a first read. I've done it after I've read it, we've examined it. They're pretty familiar with the text.

    Visual: Second stumbling student reads

    Jennifer: It allows me to see what words they're stumbling over so indentured servants for example.

    Visual: Sound up: Student stumbles over indentured servants

    Jennifer: As they're stumbling over that, that's letting me know they really don't know what it is. So I've got to go back and talk about that idea.

    NARRATION: At this point,
    Jennifer has the students discuss the word in small groups
    then send one rep to the front of the class to report the definition they've settled on.

    Visual: An entire scene of 6 students, standing in a row, each giving their definition of “indentured servants” one after another

    JB in class: Okay so are we doing to keep indentured servants? 1 keep, 2 junk, 3 cloud.

    Jennifer in interview: I didn't have a student leader do it in this class. You know you could see when some of the kids were asked questions they were more hesitant. I think what I saw as they were putting their words up is that they weren't really justifying them in a way that they could use them. So things like for example there was one kid who talked about colonists because they were there. That's not really useful for them when they go to write.

    Realizing it isn’t working as planned, Jennifer improvises … and changes everything

    Forget the "keep it or junk it" for right now because they weren't ready to do that. And then, go back and look. And we do, what we do is give subheads then to the paragraph. So the kids can kind of see: Here's the big idea in this paragraph.
    Now, let me go back and, and revise my "keep it or junk it" list. And see if I can link then the words to that subhead.

    Jennifer explains the same to students and wraps us the lesson

    Jennifer: "keep it or junk it" … the first time I tried it took forever and I thought // oh man this is awful! And you just start seeing glazed eyes. It takes a lot of practice and I think the thing I would say is be patient, keep doing it. Because the kids are not used to reading like this. And it's pushing the kids way out of their comfort zone. They're used to reading it, saying I'm done, where are the questions. // So it's a process for you to keep doing it as the teacher. It's a process for the kids to keep doing it.

    Cube spin and music, visuals of the lively Keep It or Junk it exercise.

    The payoff is the kids know it. And when you see their writing, through all of this they've linked their ideas. And what you can really see is, how is that student thinking, how do they use their information, did they really get it.

    Jennifer: The thing that I've come away with over the last couple of years is that while I would like to think content is really critical, I think the really critical thing is the analytical skills and the thinking skills. It's not about answering a question. it's not about revising my essay and putting the periods in the right place and capitalizing. It's about revising my thinking. And to see kids at the end of the year say, wow I kinda got this. And I think then they really feel this is my information, you know, my thinking.


School Details

Glenview Elementary School
4215 La Cresta Avenue
Oakland CA 94602
Population: 452

Data Provided By:



Jennifer Brouhard


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