Students in this fourth grade class are currently engaged in a Social Studies unit study on Colonial America. In addition, students are preparing to take the New York State English Language Arts test in May. One important skill that students of this age struggle with is recognizing which are the most important ideas in a piece of expository text. Many times, students can locate the “main idea” but struggle recognizing which other pieces of information qualify as “most important.” Identifying key facts is a crucial skill when reading expository text and also represents a frequent task on the NY State tests. Integrating this skill into Social Studies content area reading allows students to practice for the test while engaging in an authentic, curriculum based learning experience.
· McGovern, Ann (1992). If you lived in Colonial Times. NY: Scholastic. (pages 13-15, pages 21-23 on overhead and handouts
· Chart paper
· Students will be able to identify three important ideas in a piece of text besides the main idea.
· Students will be able to give reasons and evidence why they believe the ideas they selected to be important.
1. I will ask students, “How do you think your life would be different if you lived in Colonial times?” and quickly chart the answers.
2. Tell students we are going to read a little bit about what life was like for children in Colonial times.
3. Put What did people eat? (pages 13-15) text on overhead. Show students that the text is formatted in as a question/answer book.
4. Showing only the question on pg. 13, ask students what they can expect to learn from this section (Answer: what people in colonial times ate)
5. Tell students that since this question shows us what we will learn from the page, it tells us the “main idea” of the page.
6. Inform students that, while the main idea is the overall subject of the page, we will learn many important ideas that give us more information about the main idea by reading the text.
7. Show an image of an umbrella and indicate that the main idea is like the top part and the important facts are like the handle that holds it up.
8. Tell the students that I am going to read through the text and, keeping the main idea in the back of my head, I will try to find the two most important ideas on the page. The important ideas should answer the question at the top of the page. When I find an important idea, I am going to put a post-it marked with a big * on the spot.
9. Model reading through the page and thinking aloud about whether an idea is important or not.
10. After finishing the text, I will reread the main idea and the three ideas I marked with the post-its to confirm that they are the most important ideas on the page (1. corn, 2. planted fruits and vegetables, 3. hunted and fished).
11. Tell student that they are going to try the same strategy by themselves. They are going to read pages 21-21 (What were schools like?) with their reading partner and search for the three most important ideas in the text. When they get to one, they should put a post-it marked with an * on the spot. Remind them that they will have to be able to give evidence as to why they chose the idea they selected.
12. As students read, circulate through the class and help those who seem to be struggling.
13. Early finishers can go back and circle a fact that they thought was really interesting in the text.
14. After all students have completed the task, call their attention back to the front. Put the text up on the overhead and have the groups share what they have determined to be the most important ideas in the text. Students must give evidence and provide the thinking behind their decision.
15. Before sending students off, remind them that a text includes more important points than just the main idea. Tell them that we found many important ideas in the text today and, as long as we were able to give reasons and evidence to support our thinking, none of us was wrong. Tell students that they will get the chance to practice finding the important information in text again tomorrow, when they read a text by themselves and have a conversation with a small group.
16. On the next day, we will meet as a class to review the teaching point. Students will be grouped into 3 groups and will be given a section of text. They must identify the most important ideas in the text they read and then have a conversation with their group defending their choices. Each group will operate independently but will be “shadowed” by a teacher, an assistant teacher, or a student teacher (one to each group). The struggling group will read from Colonial Life by Brendan January, one of the True Books series (2001). On-level students will read an additional page from If You Lived in Colonial Times. Above-level students will read from Historic Communities: Colonial Life by Bobbie Kalman (1992).