Note: This lesson is 1 of 5 included in our "Key Ideas and Details" lesson 5-pack.
Prerequisite Knowledge: This lesson assumes that students are already proficient with coding a text, using two column notes, determining what a text says explicitly, generating text-based inferences, and determining main ideas. Lessons are offered on our TPT store that cover those skills.
Common Core Rationale:
As we noted at the beginning of the lesson on Determining Main Ideas, CCSS Reading Anchor Standard 2 calls for students to “Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.” Based on the current grade level you teach, your individual standard will focus on an aspect of this competency as it grows in complexity from grade K to grade 12.
In the early elementary grades, the focus of this work is on students identifying the main topic of a text and focus of individual paragraphs along with key ideas and details. In upper elementary grades, determining main idea(s) in a text and explaining how the key details of the text support the main idea(s) becomes the focus. In the middle grades, students begin work on determining central idea(s) in a text and explaining how central idea(s) is/are conveyed and developed over the course of a text. In the high school grades, the emphasis becomes determining central idea(s) in a text and analyzing how it emerges and interacts with other central ideas within the text.
As is clear from the progression, students who have not reached a level of proficiency in an earlier stage of developing this competency are likely to struggle greatly in achieving the proficiency of a later stage. For instance, students who are unable to determine main ideas with independent proficiency will likely not experience success in determining central ideas. Therefore, you should use the CCSS progression as mapped out across the grade levels to help make decisions about how to differentiate for students with varying needs.
Value of Concept:
As stated in the previous lesson, reading to determine main ideas and central ideas is an essential skill in making sense of texts. Main idea and central idea work does this by helping to organize and differentiate all of the explicitly and implicitly communicated information we gather and ideas we generate during the reading of a text into meaningful groupings.
If we do not organize to differentiate which ideas are the “bigger” ones and which ideas are the “smaller” ones that help support the bigger ideas, our brains become overloaded with the jumble of explicitly and implicitly communicated information communicated in a text. The result is that we take very little understanding away with us.
Main idea work and central idea work differ from each other in the following way. Main idea work concerns organizing and differentiating the information and ideas that are explicitly stated by the author. In other words, determining main ideas involves thinking about and working with only the information the author included in the text. Central idea work concerns organizing and differentiating information and ideas that are both explicitly stated by the author and inferred by the reader. Determining central ideas involves thinking about both the explicit and implicit information in the text to determine big ideas that are not explicitly stated, but are supported by textual evidence found, in the text. Central ideas in texts either may have been intended by the author (in an effort to lead readers to conclusions that the text purposely left unstated) or may have been unintended by the author but clearly emerge and become evident to the reader while thinking about the text.
Since main idea and central idea work are an essential step to thinking about a text and making sense of it at deep and nuanced levels, students will not be able to experience much success with later CCSS literacy competencies, which begin to delve into more complex and narrowly focused aspects of the text, unless they reach a level of independent proficiency with determining main ideas and central ideas.