Showing posts with label Gist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gist. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's the Deal With Details?

Students in Reading Workshop are confused.  All year they have listened to me scream about more details.  They hear comments like, use information from the text/book, include support from the selection, tell me more, back up your point, and you need more details. In every writing assignment, whether it was a letter, a journal, or a blog post, I have constantly prodded them to help the reader visualize by including more details.

Now, as we begin to focus more on reading, and breaking down nonfiction essays, I am telling them to forget the details.  All we talked about yesterday was looking for the main points, looking for the gist, and the W's.  The message has changed and the students are giving me that dazed and confused look.

So what's the deal with details?  Do they matter or not?  Well, the answer is yes and no.  As a writer, details are your best friend.  They are how you help the reader understand.  They help you draw a picture so the reader sees and comprehends your points.  Specific details make writing great.

As a reader, fighting for understanding of difficult text, skip the details.  Don't worry about spectacular facts, or engaging opinions.  Ignore grabber introductions written to get you interested in a piece of writing.  As a reader, focus on the W's.  Find out who is the main person (or topic) of the essays.  Look for where and when the event happened.  Determine why this event took place and how it worked.

Then look for the gist.  Find the central idea.  Determine the most vital part of the piece of writing.  Once you understand this, you have successfully read the essay.

Do details matter?  Only if you need them to help you understand the W's and the gist.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Learning to Read, Adult Style

For the next several weeks, we will be focusing on learning how to read. I am not talking about your overused, "sound out the words, and go back and reread when you don't get it," but real skills that readers of higher level essays use to comprehend.

Learning to read is the main focus throughout elementary school. However, the style of reading must change as students enter Jr. High School and above. By sixth grade, figuring out all of the words is a small part of the reading process. Students must learn to decipher meaning, especially in difficult text. Reading for the gist, understanding the W's (who, what, when, where, why, and how), and comprehending important details becomes the focus.

Although comprehension strategies are taught in the primary grades, the techniques should change as students enter the intermediate grades. That is our objective currently in language arts class.

Over the next few weeks, students will be taught to follow these steps when reading nonfiction.

2.Read and Highlight
3.List W’s
4.List facts
5.Write a topic sentence/Gist Statement

Today we focused on skimming for key words.  As we move forward we will break down nonfiction articles trying to glean the most important facts and information.  In the weeks to come, we will focus on how the parts of speech help determine meaning, what to highlight, and what to ignore, pace of reading, word substitution, and several other skills that will prepare students as critical readers in the years ahead.