Instructional Move Number 9: Keep It Or Junk It

Two years ago I posted on a move titled, Keep It or Junk It. The approach has students identifying vocabulary from a text they feel is relevant to answering a focus question instead of the teacher prioritizing words for the students. In the video linked here 5th grade teacher Jennifer Brouhard describes the move and viewers are able to watch its application in Brouhard’s classroom.

Following the initial post in August of 2012, Dr. Pete Cobin shared his thoughts on Keep It or Junk It for English Learners:

There are two things in particular that I noticed.

  1. The emphasis on “What are you thinking? How do you use this information?” requires students to grapple with how to use language to express their ideas.  This leads students to struggle with how to be more informative, and challenges them to go beyond staying on firm ground where they feel comfortable.  The result is that students are using language that is rather complex, and the text serves as a model for how to use this more complex language.
  2. The “Keep It or Junk It” activity begins with learning vocabulary and extends to discussing and arguing how the vocabulary relates to the main ideas.  As a result, the amount of paragraph level oral language shown is quite high.  The progression of language functions–from identifying vocabulary, to repeating it, describing it, making an example with it, explaining it, arguing about it–forms a nice WIDA-like strand across the range of proficiency levels.

You can learn more about how other classroom teachers are using Keep It or Junk it in the links below.

5th Grade Students work with the question, Why Did the British settle in Jamestown and what happened as a result. You can view part 1 here and part 2 here.

Raye Wood blogs about using the strategy here. outlines the strategy here


About Aaron Grossman

I am a 5th grade teacher at Roy Gomm Elementary in Reno, Nevada. I started working with elementary students as part of the Montana Reads program and AmeriCorps. In 2001, after graduating from the University of Montana and moving to Reno, Nevada, I student taught at Rita Cannan Elementary before receiving a 6th grade position at Veterans Elementary. I moved out of the classroom to be a Literacy Coordinator, then an Instructional Coach, and finally a School Improvement Program Coordinator. In 2011, I began working on the Nevada Academic Content Standards in the district’s Curriculum & Instruction Department. I returned to the classroom for the 2015-2016 school year to teach 4th grade at Huffaker Elementary. Before returning to the classroom, I helped develop the Core Task Project that has been featured by National Public Radio, the Gates Foundation, American Radio Works, Eduwonk, the Fordham Institute, Vox, and the Center for American Progress. In 2014, I received the Leader to Learn From Award for my teacher-centered initiative and work to bring college, career, and civics ready outcomes into Northern Nevada classrooms (here). In 2015, I was appointed by Governor Sandoval serve on the Statewide RPDP Council. The same year, Nevada’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero placed me on the state’s State Improvement Team. This year I will be part of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Advisory Group. I am Google Certified Educator and a Nevada Teacher Ambassador. I believe strongly that teaching content is teaching reading and I make sure my students have ample opportunities to work with social studies, history, science and art outcomes. I do what I can to blend the learning for my students and this blog is part of that effort. You can contact me at
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