Saturday, February 6, 2010

Finding main ideas

It's important for students to understand how to find main ideas. With my fourth graders, I am always fighting against their impulsive habits. If I give them paragraphs for practice, they often just circle the very first sentence.

How to change the activity? I've found some success with cutting apart paragraphs. Students have to read each sentence, figure out the topic, find the main idea sentence, and then try to put the paragraph in order. Sorting the cards and putting them in order keeps them more engaged than just reading sentences. As I watch them work with their partners and listen to their conversation, I can figure out what "rules" they're using and clear up any misconceptions. Students who can easily find the main ideas then concentrate more on putting the rest of the sentences in order, which requires them to think carefully about cohesion and how the ideas fit together.

These cut apart sentences are simple to make. For my first set, I just wrote the sentences on a sheet of paper. When I saw how well it worked, I typed the sentences into a Word table and copied them on cardstock. However you do it, this works well as a small group activity, partner activity, or center.

I've uploaded a document with some sentences to Slideshare. Here's the link:

Sentences for finding main ideas

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