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Finding the Main Idea

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We teach main idea as if it is a simple skill. Read the book, find the main idea, and now you are done! Main idea is a complex cognitive process requiring readers to use multiple strategies and skills. This presentation breaks the process down step by step.

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Finding the Main Idea

  1. 1. What’s the Point?: Finding the BIG Ideas in Text Presented By Angela Maiers, 2006 ©Angela Maiers, 2006
  2. 2. What is the BIG IDEA?? <ul><li>Define main idea and theme. (Is there any difference?) </li></ul><ul><li>Main idea is… </li></ul><ul><li>Theme is… </li></ul><ul><li>How do YOU (as a reader) find the main idea/ themes within text? What are the specific steps involved in getting to the BIG IDEAS? List and Discuss. </li></ul><ul><li>What do your students struggle with most when seeking the BIG IDEAS in text at your grade level? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Harvard Report Dr. Perry, Director of the Harvard Reading and Study Center <ul><li>1500 first year college students-30 pg chapter from textbook </li></ul><ul><li>Task: Within 20 minutes, write a short statement on what the chapter was about </li></ul><ul><li>Outcome: 94.5% students scored well on multiple-choice test on detail </li></ul><ul><li>15 out of 1500 top first year college students: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>previewed section </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>read headings </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>understood and followed the writing/writer’s structure </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>skimmed and analyzed visuals </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>looked descriptive flags in the margin </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>read end of the chapter summaries </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>noted key points while reading-signal words and phrased </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Major Conclusions: &quot;obedient purposelessness&quot; : </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;an enormous amount of wasted effort&quot; in most of first year students. </li></ul><ul><li>Students must be jarred out of this approach. This reading act requires self-confidence, skill, intention, focus, and even courage, on the part of the student who must decide for himself what to read or skip. Students MUST always ask themselves what it is they want to get out of a reading assignment, then look around for those key and important points. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Thinking Like a Writer!! <ul><li>The act of reading and writing involve the same skills. Both require a student to use word knowledge, sentence structure, and paragraph organization to either convey a message or to decode a message. </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  5. 5. Authors Decisions <ul><li>What do I know about, care about, or have researched enough about to write down? (TOPIC) </li></ul><ul><li>What is my goal in writing this information down? What do I want to accomplish by writing this information down? (PURPOSE) </li></ul><ul><li>Who would benefit from knowing these facts? (AUDIENCE) </li></ul><ul><li>What would be the best way to share this information with my readers? (FORMAT) </li></ul><ul><li>How should I organize the information so the reader can easily read and understand it? (STRUCTURE/ORGANIZATION) </li></ul><ul><li>What can I do hook readers’ attention? (FEATURES/STYLE) </li></ul><ul><li>How do I know this is my very best writing? (CRAFT/CREDIBILITY ) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Today’s Goals and Agenda: <ul><li>What is the main idea-EXACTLY? </li></ul><ul><li>Where is it located in fiction/nonfiction text? </li></ul><ul><li>What is it that we need to explicitly model and demonstrate to students so they can find the BIG IDEA on their own. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Why it is so hard to find? <ul><li>Main Idea </li></ul><ul><li>Main Idea Statement </li></ul><ul><li>Most Important Idea </li></ul><ul><li>Central Idea </li></ul><ul><li>Central Thought </li></ul><ul><li>Author’s Message </li></ul><ul><li>Theme </li></ul><ul><li>Thesis </li></ul><ul><li>Critical Understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Writer’s Purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Paragraph is&quot; Mostly” About </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  8. 8. Parts of a Paragraph <ul><li>A topic identifies who or what the reading passage is about. </li></ul><ul><li>A main idea (the most important point the author is making about the topic). It is often stated in a topic sentence. </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting details (the specific ideas to develop, explain, or support the main idea). </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  9. 9. Main Ideas can be… <ul><li>Stated : A stated main idea is a sentence found in the reading passage which states the topic and the main point or points being made about that topic. This sentence is referred to as the TOPIC SENTENCE. </li></ul><ul><li>Implied: An implied main idea means that the author has chosen not to use a statement in the selection or passage to tell the reader the topic and main idea. The reader must read the passage and determine the main idea from the information that is presented. The READER is responsible for composing a statement of the main idea. No topic sentence exists. </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>You, along with lions, goats, and bats belong to a class called mammals. About 4000 species of mammals live here on earth, and many look different from each other. But, all mammals have certain characteristics that set them apart from other living things. Mammals are all warm blooded and have fur or hair. They can survive in cold places because of their warm blood. Many believe that mammals are the most intelligent animals on earth. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Four Steps to Discovering the Main Idea <ul><li>What is the topic of this passage? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the points made about this topic? (Supporting Details) </li></ul><ul><li>What point is the writer trying to prove or make? State that point . </li></ul><ul><li>Does that statement represent the most important thing the writer is saying about the topic? </li></ul>
  12. 12. L6: Topic Sentence <ul><li>A reader can be sure they have found </li></ul><ul><li>the stated main idea if… </li></ul><ul><li>the sentence contains the topic </li></ul><ul><li>the sentence states the single most important point about the topic </li></ul><ul><li>the sentence is general enough to cover all the information in the paragraph </li></ul><ul><li>the other sentences explain or tell more about the main idea sentence </li></ul><ul><li>the sentence makes complete sense by itself </li></ul><ul><li>(the reader can comprehend the selection without reading the rest of the selection). </li></ul>
  13. 13. What is the Main Idea? <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Wilma Rudolph was a crippled child who became an Olympic running champion. Wilma was born prematurely in 1940 and spent her childhood battling illness, including measles, scarlet fever, chicken pox, pneumonia, and polio, a crippling disease that at that time had no cure. At the age of four, she was told that she would never walk normally again. After years of special treatment and physical therapy, twelve year old Wilma was determined to walk again normally. But walking was not enough for Wilma, who was determined to become an athlete. Before long, her talent earned her a spot on the 1956 Olympics, where she earned a bronze metal. In the 1960 Olympics, at the height of her career, she won three gold medals. </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  14. 14. Defining Central Idea/Thesis <ul><li>The central point is the main idea of a passage made up of two or more paragraphs. </li></ul><ul><li>The thesis statement is a STATEMENT (telling sentence) that states the topic and the author’s controlling point about the topic for a passage of two or more paragraphs. </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  15. 15. Ten Lessons to Support Reading for the Big Idea!!! <ul><li>Lesson One : Defining Main Idea </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Two : Exploring the Parts of a Paragraph </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Three : Identifying Topic/Subject of the Writing </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Four : Sorting Major/Minor Details </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Five : Using Text Structure to Identify M.I. </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Six : Looking for A Topic Sentence </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Seven : Making Inferences from implied M.I. </li></ul><ul><li>. </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Eight : Putting Author’s Point into your own words </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Nine : Monitoring and checking for meaning using M.I. criteria </li></ul><ul><li>Lesson Ten : Exploring Differences in Location of Big Ideas across multiple </li></ul><ul><li>texts and genres </li></ul>
  16. 16. L1: Defining Main Idea <ul><li>Main? Idea? </li></ul><ul><li>Main Idea is……. </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  17. 17. L2: Topic, Main Idea, or Supporting Detail? <ul><li>____One common cause of headaches is muscle tension. </li></ul><ul><li>____Poor posture that tenses the muscles in the neck and back can trigger a headache. </li></ul><ul><li>____Headaches are sometimes the result of stress, anxiety, and depression that cause the muscles in the neck, face, and scalp to become tense. </li></ul><ul><li>____ Common causes of headaches </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  18. 18. L3: Identify the TOPIC <ul><li>The topic is identified as either a word or phrase which best describes what the reading selection is about. The topic should not be too broad (covering more than what is discussed in the selection) or too narrow (not covering everything discussed in the selection). </li></ul><ul><li>Q: &quot;Who or what have I just read about?“ </li></ul><ul><li>Clues for determining the topic of a selection: </li></ul><ul><li>A word, name, or phrase that appears as a heading or title. </li></ul><ul><li>A word, name or phrase that appears in special type such bold print, italics, or color. </li></ul><ul><li>A word, name or phrase that is repeated throughout the paragraph. </li></ul><ul><li>A word, name, or phrase that may appear at the beginning of the paragraph </li></ul><ul><li>and is then referred to throughout the paragraph by pronouns (or other words). </li></ul>
  19. 19. L3: What is the Topic? <ul><li>The rules of conduct during an examination are clear. No books, calculators or papers are allowed in the test room. Proctors will not allow anyone with such items to take the test. Anyone caught cheating will be asked to leave the room. His or her test sheet will be taken. The incident will be reported to the proper authority. At the end of the test period, all materials will be returned to the proctor. Failure to abide by these rules will result in a failing grade for this test. </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  20. 20. L3: What is the Topic? <ul><li>Most of the policy problems that the federal government confronts do not lend themselves to simple solutions. Whether the issue is space travel or hunger in America, expert knowledge is essential to the development of effective public policy. Much of the expertise is held by bureaucrats. They spend their careers working in a particular policy area. Many of them have had scientific, technical, or other specialized training. </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  21. 21. L4: Sorting for Importance in the Details
  22. 24. L5: Knowledge of Text Structure <ul><li>Description </li></ul><ul><li>Compare/Contrast </li></ul><ul><li>Cause and Effect </li></ul><ul><li>Chronology/Sequence </li></ul><ul><li>Procedural </li></ul><ul><li>Persuasive </li></ul><ul><li>Question/Answer </li></ul><ul><li>Problem/Solution </li></ul>
  23. 25. Topic Sentence Location: <ul><li>First sentence </li></ul><ul><li>2) Last sentence </li></ul><ul><li>3) Middle of paragraph </li></ul><ul><li>4) Combination of two sentences </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  24. 26. L7: Implied MI <ul><li>Implied Main Idea: In some instances an author might choose to only hint or suggest the topic and main idea rather than </li></ul><ul><li>An implied main idea is a sentence that the reader composes rather </li></ul><ul><li>than a statement found in the selection.  This reader developed </li></ul><ul><li>sentence provides the same information as a topic or stated main </li></ul><ul><li>idea sentence.  An implied main idea answers the same two basic questions as </li></ul><ul><li>a stated main idea: </li></ul><ul><li>    1.  Who or what did I just read about?     2.  What was the main point or points made by the author. </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  25. 27. L8: Formulating Implied MI <ul><li>3 Ways Readers Formulate an Implied Main Idea: </li></ul><ul><li>  1.  Add essential words or phrases to an existing </li></ul><ul><li>sentence from the paragraph. </li></ul><ul><li>2.  Combine two sentences from the paragraph to </li></ul><ul><li>state the topic and main idea. </li></ul><ul><li>3.  Develop a new sentence that states the topic and main idea of the paragraph.  This sentence will be the general inference made by the  passage. </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  26. 28. L9: Monitoring the Inference <ul><li>A correct implied main idea… </li></ul><ul><li>1.  is a complete sentence. </li></ul><ul><li>    2.  is an expression of the author's most important </li></ul><ul><li>general point about the topic. </li></ul><ul><li>3.  makes sense by itself (without having to read </li></ul><ul><li>the rest of the paragraph). </li></ul><ul><li>4. Is supported by the details provided by the author </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  27. 29. L10: Genre Differences <ul><li>Theme is the subject of story, poem, or piece of literature usually expressed as a statement about life’s universal topics. (love, happiness, grief, etc…) </li></ul>©Angela Maiers, 2006
  28. 30. ©Angela Maiers, 2006 Universal understandings that authors write about in their stories or poems growing up jealousy making friends success fear siblings romance trickery failure change overcoming injustice power arrogance death superficial love courage acceptance selfishness being ordinary moving on family relationships (beginning, ending, trials within) wealth The TOPIC in literature and poetry is a THEME