Happy Holidays! Today is Kwanzaa, if that’s your thing; yesterday was Christmas, Festivus was a few days ago and New Year’s is coming right up. I’m not sure when Hanukkah fits in this year, but I’m pretty sure it happened. Most of us are halfway through our winter break, but sadly, you’re already (or still) thinking about school. So am I, though, so let’s embrace our inner geek and dive back into the Common Core standards. Today we’re talking Informational Reading Standard 4.2, and it’s a doozy! Here’s the full text:
Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.”
This is pretty straightforward. We want our students to read non-fiction, informational text and tell the main idea. We also want them to defend their choice of the main idea using evidence from the text. In short, we want our kids to be able to summarize, or paraphrase, informational text.
As luck would have it, my students just finished a major project in which this standard played a key role. As an assessment of our science unit on land and water, I designed an LDC module in which they had to examine a series of pictures and explain the interaction of land and water. The pictures represented erosion, flooding, river deltas, etc. There were six pictures altogether and each student selected three.
One of the mini-tasks involved note-taking. In my district, each science kit comes with a huge book bin, crammed with various non-fiction texts related to the science topic. My students chose a variety of appropriate texts using the indices of the books (another mini-task!) and went to town on their large graphic organizers.
And here’s where standard 4.2 is so important. Fourth grade students don’t instinctually know how to take notes from a text. They don’t come knowing how to read a section from a book and paraphrase it, or “put it into their own words.” But that’s why they have teachers!
I modelled. Boy, did I model. Then I had them try it while I watched. When I caught someone paraphrasing correctly, I had that person show the text and her notes on the screen. Then we practiced some more. And I had the kids who figured it out show and help their classmates until everyone had a solid understanding of how to read informational text and summarize it in their own words.
We spent three days taking notes from the books, as well as a variety of websites that I pre-located. Those graphic organizers were chock-full and ready to be used for their rough drafts.
I learned two important things from this activity. First of all, something as important as note-taking has to be intentionally and deliberatively taught. And it takes time.
I also learned (again) the power of Literacy Design Collaborative: the fact that the standards are “hard-wired” into the structure of the modules. Even someone as dense and clueless as myself can follow the steps to design a module, and by so doing, insure that their students will be taught the Common Core standards.