Hey! What's the Big Idea?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a mini-series on using fiction plot structure to retell a story.  In these lessons, the plot structure was used to help the student determine what was important to the story.

But sometimes fiction texts don’t follow this exact structure.  Maybe there isn’t a clearly defined problem or climax.  I’ve found this to be particularly true of stories around the K and 1st grade levels.  When a child struggles to create a main idea in these texts, I like to prepare an idea sort.  I go through the book ahead of time and pull out big and small ideas and have the  student sort them.  (See my definitions below.)

Small ideas are in a small part of the book; maybe only on one page or in a part of a picture.  They are not very important or may even be irrelevant to the story line.

Big ideas are usually on more than one page and are essential to the story line.  If big ideas are left out, the story would not make sense.

First, I model by sorting a couple of the ideas myself.  I tell the student why I sorted it as a big or small idea. Then I support the student as she sorts the rest.  I ask, “What made that idea big/small?” with each idea, I help the student explain her thinking.  If I see that the student is picking up on the concept rather quickly, I back off my support.

After sorting all the ideas, we use the sentences from the “big idea” column to create a main idea (what the text is all about).

Here’s a sample sort with Duck on a Bike by David Shannon, one of NJoy’s favorite books right now.  I practically have it memorized!  I have this one leveled at end of 1st grade.  Scholastic’s Book Wizard classifies it as 1.8 (first grade, 8th month).

Disclaimer: this is my first time using 4shared.  Please let me know if you have problems downloading the sample sort.  Thanks!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle Breum
    May 23, 2011 @ 09:55:25

    I couldn’t download the file. I tried three times. The seconds would count down in the box, but nothing happened.

    I’ve used MediaFire a few times to share files.

    Nice post!


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