For years I have struggled to help students identify an author's central claim and pull together the writer's opinions about the most significant topics in the text into a concise sentence that moves beyond simplistic or vague statements - The author wants her audience to stand up and fight for her cause. The main idea of this text is to stop inequality. - If this sounds familiar, then we must have the same students! Well probably not, but certainly the same problem.
This worksheet is designed to help students think more deeply about the text as a whole and the author's overall purpose. I have had great success with it in both regular and advanced classes. Also included is a rubric to score students' ability to identify a central claim and samples based on Abraham Lincoln's "The Gettysburg Address" to match each level of the rubric.
Just like any skill, I would recommend in the early stages of using this tool, you model how to complete the process on the worksheet, and use a gradual release approach that involves practicing multiple times with multiple texts. It can be used with any type of speech, article or expository text that is persuasive in nature and works in Social Studies classes too.