Teacher Prep: To prepare for day two I make sure that I have gone through the article myself and identified the details vs. the main ideas for each paragraph. Please let me strongly reiterate that I rarely end up using my notes and only refer to them if the students need a little bit of additional guidance here or there.
Day two of each formula cycle begins in the same manner as day one, with a quick read to get the flow of the chosen text. We then jump right into paragraph one going line by line identifying whether each thought is a supporting detail or main idea. We truly focus on what each paragraph is about. We ask ourselves, what is the purpose of this paragraph? What was the author really trying to tell us? The diamond of ‘a main’ idea is hidden among piles of coal details. In the beginning, students aren’t very good at this. Specifically, when working with an authentic primary source, complex article, or piece of classic literature. That is okay! They improve with practice and quickly become skilled at determining what matters within each paragraph. One more thing I think it is important to point out is that the students are not always underlining entire sentences. They are often choosing a word or phrase here or there.
Throughout this aspect of the formula, we follow the same scaffolding as day one. With upper grades, I model the first paragraph, scaffold the second paragraph by working with the students, and then for the additional paragraphs allow them to work in small groups. For lower grades, I tend to go paragraph by paragraph and we determine the main ideas interactively. Each paragraph gets between 3-8 minutes to be worked on before we regroup for sharing, discussion and discourse for an additional 10-15 minutes. Regardless, of whether the students are in upper or lower grades they are in charge of handling and annotating their copy of the text.
As we meet together and share our main ideas, we may agree to disagree, but we also strive to convince one another of what matters and which main ideas are truly main ideas.
Within a few months, the students are able to quickly identify the main ideas independently and are typically in agreement when comparing thoughts as a group. As with day one, students are encouraged to alter their choice of the main idea for each paragraph if they feel so inclined. On occasion, the students come into the group discussion certain that their main idea is solid, but then quickly decide to take out a word or phrase when peers convince them they are unnecessary. Don’t forget the annotations are alive and should be altered as the students and their learning evolve.