Content Area Literacy

How Do I Teach Main Idea?

Teacher question:

Last week, I read your blog about how to teach theme to students by having them track character changes across a story and determine what lesson the character learns to determine the overall theme.Can you offer advice on determining the main idea of an informational text? Specifically, for third grade, students must determine the main idea, recount the key details and explain how the key details support the main idea. What is the best way HOW to teach this to third graders?

Shanahan’s response:

Curiosity ignited

I admit it. I did not enjoy science and math very much when I was a kid. But new and fresh approaches in books for young readers (and I, of course, am still a young reader at heart) are sure to not only engage but inspire a new generation.  Many new books are sure add to an appreciation of the humanities.

Is It Really Sensible to Teach Students to Read Like Historians and Scientists?

Teacher question:

I don’t get the reason for trying to make students read “like historians” or read “like scientists.” Many of my students aren’t likely to even go to college and even if they did they probably won’t be historians or scientists. I understand why it makes sense to teach students how to study a history or a science textbook so they can pass the tests on those, but “read like a…” Why?

Shanahan's response:

Water Words and Watersheds

Anna Faulkner acquired a passion for working with students in 2006 as a teacher at Bingham Academy, an international school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She moved back to the U.S. to earn her Masters of Education in International Education Policy and graduated in May of 2012.

We Are Water Explorers, Raft Builders, and Readers!

Becky Koons is a Senior Resident Services Manager with AHC Inc. at the Woodbury Park Community Center in Arlington, Virginia. AHC’s Summer Camp program is designed to prevent learning loss — a particular challenge for low-income students — through both educational and enrichment experiences.

Adventures of My Summer River Rangers

How can we teach children about one of our most important natural resources? Gaynelle Diaz combines lots of reading with art, hands-on activities, and field trips to jumpstart a summer full of learning about water and our local rivers.

Implementing Higher Literacy Standards or Putting on a Show?

Back in the 1930s, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney always seemed to be putting on a show. They were going to be sent to a farm to work for the summer in Babes in Arms, but they wanted to go to Broadway instead — and they did!

Who Should Teach Disciplinary Literacy and Should We Integrate the Curriculum?

Teacher question:

My question is about disciplinary literacy. Should we be guiding teachers to integrate social studies or science and ELA or having our ELA teachers teaching disciplinary literacy for these subjects? Our curriculum focuses on overarching concepts and essential questions.

Shanahan's response:

You raise two separate issues here: curriculum integration and who has responsibility for the disciplinary literacy standards.

Let me take them one at a time.

Dazed and Confused: The Main Idea of Main Ideas

Teacher question:

Can you explain the difference between central idea, main idea, and theme? There appears to be a lot of confusions with these terms. 

Shanahan’s response:

You’re correct. There is much confusion and disparity in use of the terms central idea, main idea, and theme. And please add topic and topic sentence to that list, too.

On Science Reading, Informational Text, and Reading Pullout Programs

Question:

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"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss