Areas of Expertise


Adolescent Literacy

Reading Strategies

Strategy: Most Important Word
Bleich, David.  (1975).  Reading and Feelings:  An Introduction to Subjective Criticism. Urbana, IL:  National Council of Teachers of English.          

Overview: It is important to remember that the craft of writing is primarily a process of choosing words that will reflect the true meaning of the author's message. A good writer consistently "draws the reader in" by making the unfamiliar aspects become familiar. The Most Important Word strategy may be used throughout the reading of a selection.


  1. The teacher presents two words that are important to the story. In the beginning, these words may well be part of the title.
  2. The class brainstorms definitions of the words, and their responses are recorded on the chalkboard or an overhead.
  3. Students then scan the selection and make note where the two words are used, alone or as part of a phrase. These are then shared with the class.
  4. In small groups, the students discuss the significance of the two words or write about them.
  5. Each group is then assigned to a certain number of chapters in the novel and assigned the task to find important words and reflect on how they support the theme of the book.
  6. Each group reports back to the class with the words they found most important. These are recorded on the chalkboard or an overhead.
  7. The list is then used as the basis for an all-class discussion about the novel. This strategy will assist students in understanding an author's intent in crafting a message.


An example of Most Important Word can be found in the Kylene Beers (2003) book, When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

The poem "The Sacred" by Robert Coffin was read. It was decided, after a whole-class discussion, that the most important word in the poem was love. Each student was given a graphic organizer with the center circle reserved for the Most Important Word. On the upper left was a space to identify the characters. Below that, the students were instructed to write what the conflict was. In the space on the upper right, the theme of the poem was stated and below that, the setting. Finally, below the center circle, a brief summary of the plot was written. A template of this form can be found on page 325 in the book cited above.


Copyright © 2011 Learning Point Associates. All rights reserved.