What happens across grade levels to the second Common Core State Standard for reading information is enough to give the the close reader mental whiplash. Take a look – the bolding is not in the original.
RI 5.2. Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
RI 6.2. Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
RI 7.2. Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
RI 8.2. Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
Two main ideas. One central idea. Two or more central ideas. Back to one central idea. Key details. Particular details. Not so helpful to lovers of consistency and sequence. Fortunately, some recent staff development provided several useful strategies to resolve the discord. Little Red Riding Hood provides the framework.
When in doubt, round up. Don’t settle for the minimum. Get your students comfortable with one central idea. Sure, Little Red Riding Hood shouldn’t have disclosed personal information to strangers. Then entertain other central ideas that are equally plausible. Students might champion the importance of always choose the safest route when you travel. Or they could suggest that just because it’s an act of mercy to help your grandma does not guarantee all will end well.
Avoid nonsensical literalism. Assume your students will need to demonstrate every aspect of all previous standards. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that assessment of the sixth grade standards will be confined to asking for just one main idea on the sixth grade test because just only one is mentioned in RI 6.2, although there were two in RI 5.2. Even the youngest reader knows the danger of literal conclusions – a wolf dressed up in grandma’s clothing is still a wolf.
Be flexible. Is a main idea the same as a central idea? Could be. Use both terms. It’s good to know a variety of names for the same thing. Red Riding Hood? Red? If she thought her grandma was calling, she’d answer to either.
Push your students to dig out supporting details and to rank the them from strongest to weakest – it’s a quick route to effective analysis. Even though Red made note of wolf grandma’s big eyes, big nose, and big ears, that slavering tongue poking out between fearsome teeth was the detail that made the life and death difference.
Be lavish in your expectations. Assume that by eighth grade your students will need to identify more than one defensible central idea and identify key details and analyze the development of the ideas over the course of the text and create an objective summary. After all, Red Riding Hood wasn’t carrying just a sandwich. She heaped her basket full.
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