Group Size: Any

Time Required: 60 - 90 minutes

Learning Objectives: Students will be able to...

Identify the topic of a passage
Identify the central idea of a passage 


Student Worksheet (attached)
Printouts of the following articles for student use:

Depression & World War II
The Golden Gate Bridge was Completed and Opened
The Stock Market Fell to its Lowest Point During the Great Depression

Overhead transparencies of all articles 
Overhead transparency of definitions (attached)
Sticky Notes for coding the text

Do Now: (Students (S) will begin by completing the Do Now, which requires them to combine sentences, a high-yield strategy for improving student writing.  The teacher (T) can then pair/share or whole-class share student responses.  There are many possible correct responses.)

Connection: T will say: Last week we completed a WebQuest project on the 1930s and the Great Depression, and you had the opportunity to select your new literature circle books.  This week we will continue to build our background knowledge about the time period as we work on some of our non-fiction reading skills.

Direct Instruction / Guided Practice: (T will begin by solicit students' prior knowledge about the terms "topic" and "central idea."  T will write student input on the board.)

Differentiating between topic and central idea can be tricky, but it's a critical non-fiction reading strategy.  For our purpose, we'll define topic as "What the passage is mostly about," and we should note that we can almost always state the topic on just a few words.  (T will expose the definition on the overhead at this time.  S will copy the definition onto their notes.)

The central idea of a passage is what the author is telling us about the topic.  Central ideas are more specific than topics, and it's helpful to us if we state them in complete sentences.  (T will expose the definition on the overhead.  S will copy the definition onto their notes.)

(T will distribute copies of all three articles to S.)  

Let's see how we make the distinction while we read.  As I read aloud, you may either read along on your own copy of the article, or you may follow along on the overhead transparency. According to the directions on today's notes, we'll begin by looking for the topic of the first paragraph of "Depression & World War II."

(T will place "Depression & World War II" on the overhead, and read the first paragraph aloud. T will then think aloud as follows:)

Hmm... This article starts by giving the date of the big stock market crash, which was the beginning of the Great Depression.  Then it talks  a bit about the difficulty of life at that time and the transfer of power from Hoover to Roosevelt.  It concludes by describing Roosevelt's creation of the WPA in response to the Great Depression.  It seems to me like the topic of this entire paragraph could really be "The Great Depression."  In fact, every single sentence in the article relates to the Great Depression in some way: how it began, how it affected people, and how our country's leaders responded.  Since topic is "What the passage is mostly about" I'm going to say that this paragraph is mostly about The Great Depression. (Let's write "The Great Depression" as the topic for the first paragraph of this passage.

Next, we need to think about the central idea.  We defined central idea as "What the author is telling us about the topic."  In this case, then, the central idea is what the author is telling us about the Great Depression.  What do you think the author is telling us about the Great Depression?  Take a moment to jot down your ideas on today's notes.

(T will then facilitate a pair/share.  Be sure to ask students to explain their thinking and to dispel misconceptions.)

Let's move on to number 2 on today's notes.  What are we looking for this time?  (Select a student to share the directions.)

Can I have a volunteer to read the second paragraph of the article?  (T will select S to read the second paragraph.)

Take a moment to jot down what you believe to be the topic.

(T will then facilitate a pair/share.  Be sure to ask students to explain their thinking and to dispel misconceptions.)

Now that we've settled on a topic, please work with your table partner to identify the central idea of this paragraph.  (T will allow time and circulate to monitor S understanding.)

(T will facilitate share.  Be sure to ask students to explain their thinking and to dispel misconceptions.)

Let's move on to another article.

(T will direct S to read "The Golden Gate Bridge was Completed and Opened" with a partner and to work with that same partner to identify the topic and central idea of that passage.  T will circulate during this time to monitor S understanding.  After allowing sufficient time, T will facilitate whole-class share.)

Now it's time for you to practice independently for a bit.  Your third article is called "The Stock Market Fell to its Lowest Point During the Great Depression."  You should read it silently and identify the topic and central idea on your own. 

(If you noticed a few S struggling during the partner activity, you may wish to pull those S into a small group to provide additional support and scaffolding.  Otherwise, T will circulate to monitor S understanding, then facilitate a pair/share.)

Link:  If you are reading a non-fiction selection for your literature circle group, you should extend your practice into your independent reading period by trying to identify the topic and central idea of each chapter on sticky notes as you read.  If you are reading a fiction selection, however, you will probably be best-served instead by coding the text with our sticky notes as you read.

Independent Practice:  (S will read silently and code the text or identify topic and central idea.  

Since all S should have selected literature circle novels and scheduled meetings with their literature circle groups for this week, small groups of students may be holding their meetings at this time.

T will either hold individual conferences with students to monitor progress and to support individual goal-setting or pull small groups for guided reading / other interventions.

Share:  Our time for today is up. Please feel free to turn to your table partner or take a short walk to meet with your literature circle group so that you can share your work for today. Go over the observations you made as you read, and critique each others' thinking.

(T should allow time and circulate to check for understanding.)

Closing: Remember, the topic is what the passage is mostly about. It can be stated in just a few words. The central idea is something more specific. It's what the author is trying to tell you about the topic.  It's usually helpful to convey the central idea in a complete sentence.

Note to the Instructor: At the conclusion of each class period, we play a class-versus-class game called "Million Dollar Question."

I create four questions each day. The first question is based upon the day's objective. The second question addresses a topic relevant to the unit. The third question is pulled from any topic discussed during the year. The fourth question is the "Essential Question," which stays in the mix all week long and often requires students to defend their response to one of our unit study essential questions.

I read the question twice without calling on a student to ensure that all students are still thinking about a possible answer. I then choose a student's name randomly using popsicle sticks. That student has the opportunity to respond to the question. If that students answers correctly, the class gets a point. If not, the question is open to the entire class; however, a point is not awarded.

I generally pick a set number of points (50, for example) and the first class to make it to that benchmark receives an extrinsic reward, (ie: reading outside the next Friday, popcorn during independent reading time, etc.)

It's time for million dollar question!

1. Define "central idea."

2. What was the Great Depression?

3. Note to the Instructor: Insert a question here that spirals learning from previous units.

4. Explain the relationship between the "topic" and the "central idea."


Gradual release and pair/share during Introduction to New Material/Guided Practice
Literature circle novels are differentiated by reading level and by choice
Opportunity for small-group work at the conclusion of Introduction to New Material/Guided Practice 
Active reading strategy: coding the text
One-on-one Reader's Workshop conference to support individual students and to encourage individual goal-setting





Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

Non-profit Tax ID # 203478467