..just thoughts

As my classes leave the Unknowntext today we focus on the final of the seven strategies–Synthesis. I confess, as a former middle school teacher, that I really do not like the concept of “main idea,” and here is why….I find the following to be true:

…In the search for ONE big thing–ONE main idea, many important ideas are dismissed along the way…. I know we call them “details,” but why can they not also be main things?

…Looking for the main idea seems a “school thing” to kids–something they do for the teacher and not something they do when they plow into a self-selected book they love

I think we can ask kids to reveal meanings created from text, supported with text evidence. I would rather pose the questions: What’s Interesting/What’s Important? and What meaning did you create from this text? rather than What is the Main Idea….?

I like the quote below…and can relate it to comprehension…

No idea is isolated, but is only what it is among all ideas.  (Friedrich Von Schlegel)

I know students will meet “main idea” questions on standardized tests, but if they experience many opportunities to have good and targeted conversations about texts, if they read closely and deeply, I feel confident they will be able to choose ONE main idea of a passage presented on any standardized test.

Teach strategically and they will surprise you…just saying


Tell your story..




Doc-6_2_10 7-04 AM-page-1


Stories challenge us to shift, change, flex our perspectives on the world. I have posted about my strong belief in “empathy” on this blog. Most recently I have come across the word “empathy” on more than one education site. It’s no mystery to me. Without empathy as a teacher, you will fool yourself into thinking you have really “reached” and taught your students. They listen best when they connect to you. They work hardest when they know you have their back. Stories–whether quick anecdotes, or labored-over memoir, can invite our students into our worlds, and us into theirs.  The world seems upside down these days. Sharing stories seems a good way to make it feel less scary. Even after all these many years, my fondest memories of school are those of teachers whose lives outside of the classroom were shared with us with stories–and of those teachers who wanted to know about our lives outside of the brick and mortar buildings where we met five days a week. They seemed (or at least it felt like to me) to know me as a human as well as a student. That “human” factor of teaching is the empathetic factor. If we model it and find opportunities for students to practice, perhaps we might motivate, inspire, encourage students to enlarge their world views, as well. Building community is critical to teaching and to healthy classroom relationships. Stories can pave the way.

Outta my head…

Learning about your students is one of the greatest pleasures of teaching. Not just their test score histories, their math or writing hang ups, their reading struggles, their work habits. But, learning about their hopes and dreams. That’s when you become effective. When you listen closely.