Keeping this in mind, we tackled main idea of informational text this week. Throughout the entire week we focused on finding the main idea through a variety of strategies.
*Before you look at these anchor charts a little warning: I make all of my charts with my kids (or really quick before work/during lunch). I only have the mini lesson statement written before hand and maybe some other items. With that being said, they are not super cute or even neat (haha) but they are practical and serve their purpose. :D
Main Idea Strategy: Using Key Words
We started reading a high interest article from Zoobooks about Owls that was projected onto the smartboard the first day. For the first lesson, I wanted the focus to be on key words and using those key words to determine the main idea. Here is our chart:
As you can see, I taught the kids that key words are either bolded, repeated (keeping in mind words that are repeated through synonyms) or they match the heading or the title. With the students' help, we came up with four key words from a paragraph in our article. We supported the choice of key words by discussing which requirement they met to be called a key word. Then we turned our key words into a main idea sentence. Finally we completed a "Sentence Check." This is where we check each sentence (or randomly select a few) and make sure they match the main idea. If each sentence is not connected to the main idea in some way, our main idea sentence may not be accurate or complete. This really helps them not choose main idea sentences that are just interesting details.
Main Idea Strategy: What To Do When You Have Choices
The next strategy we talked about after two days of Key Word practice was how to determine the main idea when you have choices. I had this chart prepped before hand (I know you can't really tell from the handwriting. ;) but I really did). We read another section of our Owl article and thought carefully about what the author was trying to tell us.
After reading the section and discussing with our partners what we thought the author was trying to tell us with the information, we looked at our choices. We read each choice and went back to the section to determine if it was the main idea. We used our "Sentence Check" from the previous lesson to justify our answers. It was really great hearing the kids say things like, "That is just a detail and the other sentences don't really talk about that." Or "That sentence is an opinion and doesn't match the details in the paragraph." We chose our answer based on the fact that all of our sentences supported that idea.
Main Idea Strategy: What are the details or examples showing you?
For this mini lesson, we moved away from our article and used a nonfiction book on sharks. I chose this book because it contained great examples through the text and the illustrations. For this lesson I wanted to explore text that didn't really have key words, but instead used details and examples to explain some key idea.
Before reading our Shark book, we looked at a quick example that I had written on chart paper. We read it aloud and discussed with a partner what the author was trying to show us through the details provided. Since this was a familiar topic, most of them were really quick to notice that the details were showing that the inner planets are different from the outer planets.
We discussed how the main idea was not stated or even shown through key words. Instead, the reader let the examples and the details show us the main idea.
After discussing this and doing a few more turn and talks, we read a few pages from the Shark book from above. We did several main idea sentences together and then I chose a page for them to complete on their own. They were given a post it note where they had to determine the main idea. It was really interesting because some of them let the examples guide them and some of them even chose to use key words to help them from our previous lessons. They posted their responses on our chart. I was in a hurry Friday to get the pictures and am so bummed that I didn't get close up pictures. :(
Whew, we worked hard on that! Next week, we move on to summarizing nonfiction text. I hope to be able to refer to these lessons to guide that instruction as well.
How do you teach main idea of nonfiction text? I am always looking for more strategies to share with my students.