Thursday, February 12, 2015

Main Ideas, Topics, and...Photographs?

    This week, I found that I could build visual skills, questioning, and inferring even with a very traditional topic/main idea activity.

    As you can see from these paragraphs, right now we are looking at topics and main ideas. These are not the same at the all. Topics are best expressed in just a few words. Main ideas express a main point about a topic, and are always in complete sentences.

    Readers need to see lots of different paragraph examples, with main ideas in different places. Looking at multiple paragraphs with related topics helps students to see how topics and main ideas can be expressed in different ways. In these paragraphs, students also saw how paragraphs can have a sentence that doesn't belong.

Photos, Close Reading, and Details

  Okay, this is all the basic stuff. Kids really do need to have these experiences with paragraphs, and they are meaningful. But the lesson didn't really get exciting until I started showing some skink photos from my personal archive.

   "Look carefully at this photograph. Based on evidence from the text, what inference can you make about this skink?" I asked students.

    I didn't have to beg or cajole them to look back--they were flipping through their pages, scanning the sentences, eagerly searching for the detail that they remembered. "It must be a young skink!" one student said. "Look, it says here in the text..."
    Oh, the explicit text reference--that's totally what I want to see and hear! In the next picture, students first had to use some clues to figure out if the skink was on a wall or on the ground. "As you can clearly see, this is a floor mat," one student said--he definitely has a future as a prosecutor! 

   We went on to look at more pictures of skinks, talking about how sentences from the text can explain or describe them. In this conversation, students were:

-Using close reading to find details
-Making inferences as they matched text details to visual details
-Asking questions

   It all shows how a simple lesson about main ideas and topics can become so much more! 

   You can easily do this with your own paragraphs and photos. Why not try some paragraphs about your school? Consider the animals that are popular in your classroom right now--or a question that came up in science class. 

The skink texts are available as part of this product.

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