The Journey Has Begun
Last week my students began to look at non-fiction texts more closely as we started our unit on Main Idea. Teaching children to find the main idea can be a challenging task – especially with informational texts. The truth is, there is SO MUCH interesting information that it all seems important.
The key, I have learned, is to really make sure children understand the difference between interesting and important details and more importantly to set a PURPOSE for reading – after all WHY are we reading? I feel that when children start reading with a question or reason in mind, it is easier for them to find information that is really relevant.
So, last week I introduced the unit and as with any new standard we target, we talk about what the standard meant. Each child glued the standard inside their reading journals and took basic notes on what main idea is.
After we discussed the concept of main idea, we moved onto looking at an article on explorers. I used one from Iguana magazine (I love that magazine…it has TONS of great and well-written articles in Spanish). We started with the strategy of looking at key words – those that repeat, are in bold, italics, etc. From those key words, we tried to make a sentence that would encompass the most important thing on that paragraph. This was WAY to complicated for many of them….so before I abandoned the ship, I quickly wrapped up the lesson and had to rethink things over for the following day (lesson learned!).
|Part of the article that was projected onto the white board|
|Chart with key words…I had to re-invent the lesson the following day…it did not go great!|
After day one, I changed my plans and started with a lesson on main idea still but with much more scaffolding. We started looking at text features and how they signal (many times) really important information. We brainstormed questions and made predictions about what we were going to learn. This time, it went MUCH BETTER. Each student used a 2 column chart to record their questions/predictions and actual answers (if they found them). While children read independently, I met with individual students.
We will be working on main idea for the next couple of weeks, especially as we start researching the California Missions (more on that later). In order to conduct effective research, it is necessary for children to be able to determine the main idea of what they read…
How do you teach main idea to your students? I would love to hear.