What's the Big Idea?

Lesson Design: Reading to Learn

Krista Doyle

As students grow as readers, they need to master many different strategies for advanced fluency, or reading to learn. One of these strategies is learning to Summarize. By learning the steps to Summarize, students are able to get to the core of important information presented by the author, while eliminating unnecessary or repeated information. Then, finally, put they main idea of the reading into their own words. Simplifying readings this way will help the students better comprehend the subject better.



* National Geographic: Eye in the Sky "Volcanoes: Fire Down Below"

*One for each student: National Geographic Explorer "Hot Spots" by Beth Geiger.

*Students need: paper, pencil

*Smart Board

*Big Idea Checklist, for each student



Did your partner:





Underline important information



Cross out repeated information



Cross out unimportant information



Write a few sentences about the Big Idea






1. Does anyone know what it means to summarize? Summarizing means that we, as readers, are looking for the Big Idea from what we are reading. When we are Summarizing, we ask ourselves what is the main point the author is trying to get through to us. We do this by reading though an article or reading and deciding what is and what is not important about it. Focusing on the interesting, yet ultimately unimportant points detracts us from understanding the Big Ideas of what we are reading. You all help me as I pick out important information and cross out things that are not important. After that we will cross out anything that is only repeated information and then we will be left with our Big Ideas of the reading!


2. [Have the "Volcanoes: Fire Down Below" article up on your blackboard with the ability to write on the article (underline and cross out information)]. Model: What do you know about volcanoes? What do they look like? What is the material that comes out of volcanoes? The first thing we do is to read each paragraph of our article, looking for things we think are important. What was important about the first one? I think it gave us a good idea about how big volcanic eruptions are and how dramatic their effect can be, here I will underline: "titanic forces that are at work in the interior of the planet."


Guided Practice:

After reading the second paragraph, I think that information like "The Earth's metallic core is cloaked by a mantle of molten rock" is important and should be underlined, while information about an eruption being "like a shaken bottle of carbonated soda" is interesting for think about, but as important, so I will cross that out. What are some other ones you can find?


Are there any places where they repeat information, or say the same thing twice in different ways?  I noticed was that "molten rock" and "hot, liquefied, gas-infused rock" are both ways of describing lava (repeated information), so I would chose one and cross out the other.


Let's do the last paragraph together. Do you see anything that strikes you as very important? Anything that seems like it is not important? Is there anything that is repeated? [Cross out or underline information based on their answers.]


Let's read what we are left with. "Watching a volcanic eruption, titanic forces that are at work in the interior of the planet. The Earth's metallic core is cloaked by a mantle of molten rock, tremendous pressures build up, endless churning has split the surface, magma squirts out the top. Sometimes the eruption is sudden and violent, At other times eruptions are relatively slow and quiet--depending on the nature of the magma." These are the Big Ideas of the article.


Let's see if we can put this into our own words: "In the Earth's core there is molten rock that is churning. As the pressure builds the molten rock comes up through splits in the surface. Depending on nature of the magma, the molten rock, or lava as it exits the volcano, can make the eruption sudden and violent or slow and quiet."


3. [Give each student a copy of "Hot Spots" and a Big Ideas checklist] Now we are going to read an article about Hotspots on our own. This print-out is your own, so I expect to see underlined information that you think is important and crossed out information that is not important or repeated. After you have narrowed the article down to it's Big Ideas, get out a piece of paper and write them down in your own words.

Next, I will pair you off with partners and you will "grade" each other's Summaries or Big Ideas with the checklist that you were given.


4. Assessment: Observation for participation and accuracy during the article we did together. I will ask the students to sign their names as Graders on the checklist and hand it to their partner to staple to their article and written Big Ideas on notebook paper. I will evaluate for accurate summaries of this article, looking for each of the steps laid out in the checklist.




National Geographic: Eye in the Sky "Volcanoes: Fire Down Below" http://www.nationalgeographic.com/eye/volcanoes/phenomena.html


National Geographic Explorer "Hot Spots" by Beth Geiger. May 2004 issue, pages 10-15. Or: http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngexplorer/0405/articles/mainarticle.html


Beth Crenshaw "Reading to Learn" http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/realizations/crenshawrl.htm




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