The think-aloud allows students to hear the kind of self-talk, problem solving, and thinking that effective readers use so the students can practice the same effective processes. During a think-aloud, allow the students to hear what you are thinking while using strategies.
After reading Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, demonstrate, through a think-aloud, how you reflect on the story to determine themes and main ideas.
After reading a good book, I often ask myself what are the bigger ideas the author was trying to convey? I think to myself, what was this story mostly about? After finishing this book, I think about how determined Grace was to be Peter Pan even though her classmates discouraged her. I think about how supportive Grace's family was in helping her believe she could reach her goal.
The themes of family and believing in yourself are important in this book The main idea of this story seems to be that Grace's family helps her believe in herself so that she can achieve her goal of becoming Peter Pan in the school play. I can support my thinking with details from the text. Let's look back at pages 15 and 16. Her mother is telling Grace that the kids at school were wrong and that she can be not only Peter Pan, but anything else she wants to be.
Let's look at the next few pages. Grace's Nana takes her to the ballet to see a "stunning new Juliet" who is from Nana's home of Trinidad. Of course, Nana and Ma are so proud of Grace at the end when they see her in the play.
The main idea and supporting details can be recorded on a main idea web like the one below.
Main Idea Web
Mini-Lesson for Introducing and Modeling Determining Importance
Present a whole-group mini-lesson that defines and models how features in nonfiction can help readers determine main ideas and important information. According to Gay Su Pinnell and Patricia L. Scharer (2003), a mini-lesson has four components: introducing the strategy, explaining why the strategy is important to readers, demonstrating the strategy, and clearly stating what readers should do. The mini-lesson should be interactive and invite student engagement.
Introducing the Strategy
Explain that there are many features in nonfiction that signal to the reader that something is important. Select one to two features to focus on, such as bold and italicized print or headings and subheadings.
Explaining Why the Strategy Is Important to Readers
Explain that the author uses certain features in nonfiction to let the reader know that something is important or to organize information. For example, changes in the style or size of the print (often also referred to as type or font size) help readers know that something important will be explained and that pace should be adjusted accordingly, and headings give important clues about the main ideas.
Demonstrating the Strategy
Use a nonfiction big book or text that all students can see to explicitly model for students how the feature or features you've discussed help you determine and remember important information.
The author put this word in bold print. I know that means this word is important to helping me understand the topic I am reading about. I better slow down a bit to make sure I understand this word.
The author put a heading here. I know the heading tells me what this whole section is going to be about. I know the heading is going to be related to the main idea of this section.
Clearly Stating What Good Readers Should Do
Remind students that good readers use features in nonfiction to help them determine the main ideas and the information that is important enough to remember and that pace may need to be adjusted accordingly. Ask students to brainstorm other nonfiction text features that might signal them that something is important. It would be helpful if pairs of students had nonfiction texts to refer to for examples. This will help with their brainstorming. Chart responses.
Additional Mini-Lesson Ideas Related to Determining Importance
Here are some other mini-lesson ideas about determining importance that you can explore with your students:
- Main ideas are supported with details.
- In nonfiction, there is often a main idea in every section.
- Readers use many text features to help them distinguish important from unimportant information.
- Good readers slow down when they think something is important or worth remembering.
- "Central idea" is another way of saying "main idea."
- Sometimes the theme of a story must be inferred.
Immediately following a mini-lesson or think-aloud, provide guided practice in which students have an opportunity to practice with support. For example, after the think-aloud using Amazing Grace, read aloud another short book with a clear main idea, such as Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka, and ask students to discuss with a partner, or pair-share, the main idea.
After the mini-lesson on using nonfiction text features to help determine what is important and worth remembering, students might read a short article with their partner and highlight examples of such text features.
Independent PracticeMarking Examples in Independent Reading
Remind students that good readers are always using information from authors or are using features in the text to help them determine what is important. Give students each two Post-it notes, and ask them to keep these with them during independent reading, buddy reading, and managed independent learning (center time). If they encounter a text feature that signals to them that something is important, they should mark the page in the book. Allow time for sharing daily as students practice at the independent level.
Double-Sided Journal: Main IdeaDetails Recording Sheet
Students can use a main ideasupporting details recording sheet like the one below to help them differentiate main ideas or topics from supporting details as they read informational texts.
|Tornadoes are very powerful and dangerous.
- They can reach speeds of more than 200 mph.
- Tornadoes have caused many deaths and much destruction in the U.S.
Students can also use the main ideasupporting details recording sheet to help them differentiate main ideas from supporting details after reading informational texts.
Ask students to record the main idea and supporting details of their independent reading book in their response journal, or have them respond to the following question: What do you do during reading that helps you remember important information?
Main IdeaSupporting Details Sort
After a read-aloud, write the main idea and three to four supporting details, each on its own note card. Allow small groups to discuss each note card in order to distinguish the main idea from the supporting details. Students should be prepared to share their thinking.
Main Idea Web
Students can create a main idea web
in which the main idea is in the middle and supporting details are placed in boxes connected to the center by "threads."
As described by Paula Guisinger in the AdLIT "Determining Importance" reading strategy
, this "coming to a consensus" activity asks students to start by listing the three most important ideas from a read-aloud or text that the entire class has read. Students then work with a partner to share their ideas and come to a consensus about what is most important. Only three ideas may be recorded, and so the students must work together to determine importance. Next, each pair joins another pair and again shares and comes to a consensus about the three most important ideas. Finally, the class comes together to share and decide upon the most important ideas (Beers & Howell, 2003).
Nonfiction Text-Features Resource Book
Students can create their own ongoing nonfiction text-features resource book in which they record and illustrate various features and explain how the features help them as readers. For example, on a page labeled "Picture Captions," students might draw a picture and write a caption underneath. Next, they would explain how picture captions help them as readers. As new text features are introduced, students can add these to their resource books at a center. Harvey and Goudvis (2000) include student examples on pages 123 and 124 of their book.
Harvey, Stephanie, & Goudvis, Anne. (2000). Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension to enhance understanding. York, ME: Stenhouse.
Chapter 9 of this idea-packed text includes several strategy lessons and student work samples related to determining importance.
Miller, Debbie. (2002). Reading with meaning: Teaching comprehension in the primary grades. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Chapter 9 of this teacher-friendly text includes several primary lessons and student work samples related to determining importance.
Outsen, Nicole, & Yulga, Stephanie.(2002). Teaching comprehension strategies all readers need: Mini-lessons that introduce, extend, and deepen key reading skillsand promote a lifelong love of literature. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.
Chapter 8 of this teacher-friendly text includes mini-lessons to introduce and extend the strategy of identifying big ideas.
Guisinger, Paula. (2009). AdLIT Reading strategiesDetermining importance
Similar to the elementary reading strategies, this strategy provides definitions and activities about determining importance for adolescent readers. This resource would be especially helpful for upper elementary grade teachers looking to extend the strategy.
Guided reading: In guided reading, the teacher works with a small group of students who have similar strengths and needs and who are at the same or a similar instructional level. The ultimate goal is comprehension. Texts are selected based on the specific level and needs of the group. The structure of a guided-reading lesson is as follows: selecting the text, introducing the text, reading the text, revisiting and discussing the text, and teaching for processing strategies. Working with words and extending the meaning of the text through writing are optional components that the teacher includes or excludes based on student needs (Pinnell & Scharer, 2003, p. 42).
Guided practice: According to Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis (2000, p. 13), guided practice involves a gradual release of responsibility to students. Immediately after a strategy has been modeled, the teacher and students practice together. The teacher scaffolds student attempts, provides feedback, and allows students to share with peers.
Main idea: According to Ohio's Academic Content Standards (ODE, 2001, p. 304), the main idea is the gist, central thought, or chief topic of a passage. The main idea may be stated or implied. It is a statement in sentence form which states the major topic of a specific passage or text.
Mini-lesson: A short, often whole-group, lesson in which the teacher introduces a strategy, explains why the strategy is important, demonstrates the strategy, and clearly states what good readers do (Pinnell & Scharer, 2003, p. 176). The mini-lesson is interactive and is based on student needs.
Pair-share: Following a mini-lesson, think-aloud, or specific teacher prompt, a pair of students engage in a discussion, practice a strategy, or respond together as a way of making meaning and connecting to what has been learned (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000, 39).
Strategy group: Students who are grouped based on evidence of need with a specific strategy, rather than instructional level. In strategy groups, texts are selected that support practice with the skill or strategy being practiced (Szymusiak & Sibberson, 2001, p. 64).
Think-aloud: Instructional demonstrations in which the teacher models the processes and specific self-talk that he or she uses as an effective reader (Harvey &Goudvis, 2000, p. 33).
Theme: According to Ohio's Academic Content Standards (ODE, p. 308), a theme is a major idea broad enough to cover the entire scope of a literary work. The theme may be stated or implied. Clues to help determine theme are found in the ideas that recur or are given special prominence throughout the work.