Last year, I participated in a book study of Harvey and Goudvis’s Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement. I instantly fell in love with the book. The idea of using post-its to summarize a text, which I use in this lesson, can be found in their book.
My students and I had already discussed the concept of main idea. This can be a very challenging concept for students to grasp, so I am constantly revisiting the concept. After this lesson, I believe my students have a much better understanding of the concept and even aced the assessment I administered at the end of the week!
Since I had already introduced the concept, we had already created an anchor chart. Before beginning this lesson, we reviewed the anchor chart and tips for helping us identify the main idea.
Next, we jumped right in with our first article. I chose an article from Ranger Rick about a tribe in Africa sharing a lake with hippos. This article is always a hit because it uses the word “dung.” Anyways, students began by reading the entire article independently. Then, we went back through each section of the article and wrote the most important idea(s) from that section on a post-it. (One reason I love Ranger Rick magazine is because the articles are separated into nicely labeled sections.)
Once we had gone through the entire article, we removed the post-its and placed them, in order, in our reader’s notebooks. Next, we read through all of our post-its. We tried to think of what all these post-its had in common, while also remembering our tips from the anchor chart. From all this, we identified the main idea.
I began with an article, because it is shorter, and as a result, more direct and to the point. After the article, we moved on to a book about Thomas Edison. I chose this book because it is not about Thomas Edison’s entire life, only information connected to his inventions. This book is divided into nice sections as well.
As with the article, we went through each section of the book and identified the important idea(s) from each section. We discussed how these post-its were actually the supporting details in our summary. Once again, we transferred the post-its into our reader’s notebooks. We talked about what words and ideas kept reappearing. At this point, the students realized invention appeared on almost every post-it. From this, students were able to see that the main idea was about Thomas Edison’s life as an inventor.