Saturday, December 1, 2012

Main Ideas Follow-Up #2

I posted a couple of weeks ago about our progress with determining importance and main idea/details in informational text.  If you're interested, you can read about that here.  While we continue to work on this, we have layered in work on note taking and text structures.  I will eventually share some of that work, but today I want to share some of the main idea stuff.

What I found when we started, was that the kids struggled with one main idea, let alone two.  So, I backtracked a bit to get that solid, before pushing for that 5th grade standard of finding more than one (it will be coming!).  Since I'm a pretty linear thinker, I approached it from the sequence of modeling, doing as a whole class, trying alone, then getting in small groups to do it together.  They did a really nice job. Here are the kids as they began working alone in short text, rocking those post-its:

They're so diligent, and I swear the rest of the class was doing the same!  They are the greatest class ever.  They had a choice of three short articles that we had already worked with in other ways, so they were somewhat familiar. As they worked, I conferred with them to get a sense of who might be finding it tricky and who was on the road to getting it.  This helped me to group them for the small group portion of this work.

Once I had a sense of how to group them, their task was to get together, share their work with one another, and collaboratively generate a main idea that they felt was most accurate.  This was great to observe--I'm so proud of their ability to listen to one another and speak kindly to one another when they disagree.  Once they did this, the worked together to determine the most important/key details to support this main idea.  They then put this together on a large chart paper to then present to the group.  

Here, you can see a main idea that one of the groups came up with.  This group read an article called "Alaska: State of Extremes".  This main idea is pretty accurate:
"One main idea is that Alaska is extreme because it stands out from the other 49 states." True.  However, we talked subsequently about paraphrasing to show understanding. (foreshadowing our note taking work)  For example, here, using something other than extreme (extraordinary/exceptional/unusual characteristics, etc.), would be closer to extreme than stands out.  In any event, they're on the right track.  Here are the key ideas/supports that fit nicely with their main idea:
And here is one that is a bit awkward:
In this one, they were looking at a section of the text that was about how the capitol is tricky to even get to, because there are no roads and it's very isolated, the point being that in most states, the capitol is accessible and not isolated.  This idea was not as explicit in the text as the other three, so they needed to do a bit more work here. They were able to hint that they understood this in conversation, but had trouble articulating it in a way that was clear.  They were pulling this together with the idea of Alaska not being part of the contiguous US as well. That's ok! We will get there, little people.

By the way, these adorable people decided to stay in for recess to fancy up the poster with all of the patterns and such, since I was pretty clear that the sketching and doodling done in workshop should be in service of the work itself (sometimes it is, right?).  In this case, they just wanted to make it look nice, so we had lunch together while they decorated it. I love these kids--they are kids I am willing to give up my lunch to hang out with, which, if you know me, says something.

I have other examples, but you get the idea.  We will be working on the 2 main ideas as we keep going with note taking, text structures and summarization. I'm loving this unit, though I'm fumbling in the dark a bit since it's new to our curriculum (not info. text, just the particular unit itself).  We have a wonderful staff developer from Teachers College coming in mid-December to help us with the final phase, which is to do with research. She has a great blog if you are interested: indent . There's a nice post about annotating that I found very helpful.

And now I will leave you with a picture of another main idea on this chilly Saturday morning.  I sure needed this by the end of conference week:
Need I say more?  Our jobs are awesome in so many ways :)

Happy Weekend!


  1. Megan F.--something's funky with Blogger today I think--I can't publish your comment! Anyways, yes, they stayed in for recess. Crazy. I've never had a class like this, so I'm going to enjoy every minute of their company :)

  2. I like how you used the sticky notes, and then they used them to create the posters! Great way to get the kids thinking more critically and really look deep into the text. I am definitely borrowing this idea!

    Teaching in Room 6

    1. Thanks, Stephanie! Post-its have always been a struggle for me. The post over at the indent blog I link to in the post does a really nice job of articulating the purpose, which I have found helps the kids see it as less of a chore.

  3. I love the use of the stickies too!! I've been using them more and more this year...thanks for the blog recommendation!

    1. You're welcome! We are so lucky to work with Teachers College, and Kate Roberts, one of the bloggers from indent, is one of our staff developers. She's so smart and engaging.

  4. These look great! Teaching main idea is SO tough (at least for me!!) so I appreciate this idea! Thank you!

    YoungTeacherLove 5th Grade Blog

    1. It really can be tricky. I'm still working on how to explicitly teach the difference between main idea and summary to my kids. That's coming up next, so if I figure anything out I will post about it!