Short and Sweet

Emmie Wayland
Reading to Learn

Rationale:  The goal of this lesson is to teach children how to summarize information from expository text.  When children enter the upper elementary years, they begin to be responsible for information found in their texts.  This information is often difficult for children to comprehend, so this lesson addresses two ways to help children locate and isolate the important information.

Materials:  Copies of any paragraph containing a topic sentence that sums up the paragraph- one for each student (in this case, I used a "George W. Bush" worksheet), Copies of a longer passage that students will have to summarize on their own for assessment- one per student (in this case, I used "George W. Bush- Biography")

1. Today we are going to learn how to remember what we have read!  Wouldn't you like to read something and then be able to remember the information when you need it later; well, you can!  We all know that there is no need to remember all the redundant stuff in our readings, nor is there any reason to know the unimportant stuff, so when you are finished taking all that out of a passage, then there's not so much left to remember!  I am going to teach you two related ways to remember what you have read.  First, I am going to teach you how to find the topic sentence, and then, if there is not one, I will teach you how to write one of your own.
2. I am going to hand each of you a paragraph about our President, and then I am going to read it to you.  As I read, I want each of you to be looking on, and thinking about what the main idea of the paragraph is.  (Pass out, and then read paragraph.)
3. Can anyone tell me what he or she thinks the main idea of the paragraph is?  (Have a few students raise their hands and tell me.)  Great.  Now that we know the main idea, I have numbered the sentences and I am going to go down the list and I want you to raise your hand and tell me which sentence you think embodies the main idea.  If you do not think that any sentence embodies the main idea, then raise your hand now.  I am going to do a tally of how many of you think which sentence is the main idea.
4. Now that we have decided the main idea, I want all of you to understand why this sentence sums up the idea of the passage.  A passage is not defined by its dates or times, or minute details.  Instead, a passage is defined by an overall thought that provides the basis for the writing.  This overall thought can be summed up in a sentence known as a 'topic sentence'.  Many writers include topic sentences in each paragraph; however some paragraphs have no topic sentence at all.  For the paragraphs without topic sentences, we must compose our own topic sentence in order to sum up the information for ourselves.  This sentence will help us to remember the main idea of each passage, and, in turn, will help us remember what we read.  Whenever we read, we should always note the topic sentences in each paragraph.  If a paragraph does not have a topic sentence, we should compose our own.  This method will help us to remember the main idea of each passage, and that will improve our overall understanding and comprehension of the passage.

Conclusion:  I am now going to hand out a longer, more detailed passage about George W. Bush, and I want each of you to read it and, after every paragraph, underline the topic sentence if there is one, and if there is not, I want you to write your own out to the side.  (For assessment, I will gather each of the passages and check to see if the class understands the concept of main ideas and topic sentences.)

Pressley, Michael.  "Strategies That Improve Children’s Memory and Comprehension of Text"  The Elementary School Journal.  Vol. 90, #1.  Chicago, 1989.,
Rice, Erin.  "Top It All Off With A Topic Sentence.",
Vest, Amy.  "What’s the Main Idea?"., (first worksheet used),  (second worksheet used)

Worksheets Used in Lesson:

George W. Bush

1.  On the cold rainy morning of January 20, 2001, George W. Bush became the 43 rd President of the United States of America. 2.  It was a day full of celebration with the whole world watching. 3.  The inauguration ceremony began at 11:30 a.m. on the steps of the United States Capital building in Washington, DC. 4.  The oath of office was taken by President Bush with one hand resting on the Bible used by President George Washington when he took the oath of office many years ago. 5.  After his oath of office, President Bush spoke to the nation about his plans for America during his term of office. 6.  A parade followed this ceremony and parties were held in the evening to celebrate the event.


With his victory in the 2000 election, George W. Bush became the first son of a president to win the White House since John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, in 1824. On the road to winning the nation's highest office, he benefited not only from the example of his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president, but also that of his grandfather, Prescott Bush, a widely respected U.S. senator. And his victory over Democrat Al Gore, vice president to Bill Clinton, who had ousted Bush's father only eight years earlier, gave the new President Bush the opportunity to restore his family's political reputation.
Early Years
George Walker Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, where his father, just returned from World War II, was attending Yale University. Bush's mother, the former Barbara Pierce, later gave birth to three more sons, John (Jeb), Neil, and Marvin, and two daughters, Dorothy and Robin. After George Bush graduated from Yale, he set out for Texas, hoping to make his fortune in the oil business. The Bushes settled in Midland, where young George had a relatively untroubled childhood, apart from the tragic death of his sister Robin from leukemia in 1953.
As he reached high school age, George left Texas to attend the same elite eastern schools as had his father, Phillips Academy and Andover. But his years in the Lone Star State helped shape his life. "I was educated up East, but my heart was always back in Texas," he later told an interviewer. He was not an outstanding student, nor an exceptional athlete. His greatest strength was in getting along with his fellow students.
After high school, George entered Yale University, again following in his father's footsteps. A few months before graduation, he entered the Texas Air National Guard. Some critics later contended he signed up to avoid combat in the Vietnam War. They also charged that family influence helped Bush advance in the Guard. But Bush claimed he joined up mainly to become a fighter pilot like his father. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, learned to fly fighter jets, and went to monthly guard training sessions until he completed his service in 1973.
Meanwhile George worked for his father in his unsuccessful race for the Senate in 1970. The senior Bush moved on to become Ambassador to the United Nations and then Republican National Chairman. But his eldest son seemed to be drifting, a period he later called "my nomadic years." "I didn't know what I wanted to do, and I wasn't going to do anything I didn't want to do." Afterward, seeking more focus for his life, the young man entered the prestigious Harvard Business School, where he earned a master's degree in business administration in 1975.
Early Career and Marriage
Bush decided to make his start in the business world in the same place his father had begun--the oil fields of Texas. Returning to his old home town of Midland, Bush began investing in oil leases and exploration. In 1977 he founded his own oil company, Arbusto Corp.
His personal lifestyle was that of a carefree bachelor. "George had a good time…a lot of fun and a lot of wise guy remarks," his cousin and friend since childhood, John Ellis, later recalled. Much of that changed in 1977 when he met and married Laura Welch, a librarian, who friends say provided a stabilizing influence. In 1981, Laura gave birth to the couple's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, named for their two grandmothers.
Soon after his marriage, Bush plunged into the first political race of his life, for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He won the Republican nomination easily, but his opponent in the general election, a conservative Democrat named Kent Hance, defeated him by depicting him as a privileged elitist. "Kent Hance gave me a good lesson in country boy politics," Bush later recalled. "He was a master of it, funny and belittling. I vowed never to get out-countried again."
Following that setback, Bush returned to the oil business but found he could not achieve the success his father had years earlier. In his frustration he began to drink heavily, until he realized it was "interfering with my energy level." On his 40th birthday in 1986, he quit drinking abruptly and permanently. " I made a lot of mistakes when I was young and I learned from my mistakes, " Bush explained to a reporter. "I've asked people to adhere to a higher standard than I did."
He soon made other changes in his life. He sold off his oil business and went to Washington, D.C., to take up a post as an adviser to his father in the 1988 presidential campaign. After his father entered the White House, he took advantage of an opportunity to enter a new field, major league baseball. He assembled a group of investors, who bought the Texas Rangers and installed Bush as managing partner.
Not all of Bush's decisions as a baseball executive worked out well, but he did well financially. When the team was sold, his original $600,000 investment repaid $15 million. The experience acquired at the helm of the Rangers helped fill an important gap. As Bush told Time magazine, the biggest liability to his running for office in Texas was that people would think he was simply trading on father's name. "Now I can say, 'I've done something--here it is.' "
Governor of Texas
In 1993, after his father's defeat for re-election as president, Bush announced his candidacy for the governorship of Texas. He faced a formidable opponent in the Democrat incumbent, Ann Richards, known for her aggressive style and sharp tongue. Although Bush certainly benefited from his father's fame, he had also learned from his father's weaknesses. The senior Bush had been criticized for appearing out of touch with everyday life. His son tried to demonstrate how politics affected ordinary people. He concentrated on four issues: welfare, education, juvenile crime, and legal reforms to limit damages from lawsuits. In November 1994 he defeated Ann Richards and won a 4-year term as governor.
Once in office, Bush gained approval for most of his campaign platform. To fight crime, he signed a law allowing Texans to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. He initiated educational reforms that gave more independence to local school districts and helped raise test scores. He also challenged schools to stop moving children ahead to the next grade regardless of their ability to learn. "This business of passing children through our schools who can't read has got to end," he declared. "You either believe that people can learn or not. And I refuse in my state to condemn anybody to failure." Bush also argued for large cuts in local property taxes--the main source of school funding--intending to replace the lost revenue with state funds. But the legislature resisted and finally approved a reduced cut in property taxes.
Although his policies generally won approval from conservatives, Bush also gained a reputation as a moderate. One reason was his effort to reach out to Hispanic Americans, who usually vote Democrat. Unlike other Republicans, Bush opposed cutting off aid to legal immigrants. He also kept an open mind on the idea of schools offering some courses in both English and Spanish, an approach many others in his party rejected. "My deal on bilingual education is that if it works, if it teaches children, we ought to support the program, " he said.
At the end of his first term, Bush was so popular that Democrats had a hard time finding a candidate to oppose him. In 1998, Bush was re-elected with nearly 70 percent of the overall vote and almost half the Hispanic vote. He was the first Texas governor to win two consecutive 4-year terms.
The 2000 Election
The 2000 presidential election turned out to be the most dramatic in living memory. Late into election night, November 7, it became apparent that the state of Florida, with its 25 electoral votes, would determine the winner. The Florida race was so close, however, that Gore was first declared the winner, then Bush. Gore requested a recount of the votes, but after five tense weeks of both sides appealing to the court system, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on December 12 that uniform standards would have to be agreed upon before a recount could proceed. There was no time for this, though, because the deadline for the certification of Florida electors--also December 12--had essentially passed. Bush was then recognized as the president-elect.
Robert Shogan
Author, The Double-Edged Sword: How Character Makes and Ruins Presidents, from Washington to Clinton

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