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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Common Core Literature Standard 2

Let's continue our discussion about teaching with the Common Core State Standards for literature.

On to CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

This seems backward. In my mind, students need to summarize first and find the theme second.

How can students learn to summarize? For younger students, I take these steps:
  1. Read the text.
  2. List what happened in the text.
  3. Cross off things the audience doesn't need to know.
  4. Write a summary that includes specific nouns (people, places, and things) and clearly states the most important events.
A great place to start (with students of any age) is with well-known fairy tales. Most kids can list the important events in "The Three Little Pigs" or "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." The class can work together to list what happened and cross off unimportant details. Then each student can write his or her own paragraph to summarize the story. Working in groups would be fun too! You could either give each group a different fairy tale title or have everyone work on the same story and compare them at the end.

Once your students can summarize short stories, they are ready to move on to longer texts. My students love focusing on this standard because it doesn't require much writing. After reading a chapter, all they have to do is summarize it in one or two sentences. Although it doesn't seem like much, their little brains are really cranking! After all, they have to zero in on the main idea of each chapter. Here's an example of how simple it is:

When the summaries are complete, it's time to find the theme. What is theme? This 11-minute video helped me understand it better. I break it down into these steps for my class:
  1. As you read the text, ask yourself, "What message is the author sending?"
  2. List connected details.
  3. Determine a theme supported by the connected details.
  4. Write a paragraph about the theme. Tell the theme at the beginning (topic sentence), add supporting details, and conclude with a summary, personal insight, or application to your life.
Step 4 may seem unnecessary, but we need to move back to CCRA.R.1 and CCRA.W.1. When we tie it all together, we can see that students need to determine and defend the theme.

How do you help your students summarize and find a theme? I'm curious to know! Let's have some discussion.