Students need to learn how to evaluate the information in informational text to determine the most important ideas, moderately important ideas, and less important ideas to effectively summarize what they have read. Rank-Order-Retell (Hoyt 2002) assists students in learning to identify the main idea and supporting details. In the activity, students write down phrases they consider important to the topic, taken from the text either directly or indirectly. These phrases should describe the content of the reading.

Strategy Steps

  1. Distribute strips of paper to each student.
  2. As students begin reading a content-area text, ask them to write down phrases they consider important to the topic. The phrases can be either taken directly from the reading or inferred by students and should describe the information in the reading.
  3. After reading, have students work in pairs, small groups, or independently to evaluate and sort the strips into three categories: most important, moderately important, and least important (see sorting sheet below). Instruct them to work with the most important and least important first, as this is the easiest way to evaluate the information.



Most Important Ideas

Moderately Important Ideas

Least Important Ideas


  1. Have students justify their decision to place the phrases in the different categories.
  2. Ask students to identify which ideas would be the most helpful if they had to write a summary. If desired, have students write a summary of the text using the information they recorded on the strips.


Download lesson examples and an activity sheet to use with this strategy. Click Here to Download

Hoyt, Linda. 2002. Make It Real: Strategies for Success with Informational Texts. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.