Focus Question: How do we use key details to determine the central message or lesson of a story?
Capture students’ attention by showing them a bag that contains three or four objects related to the same topic (e.g., fishing, dental care, gardening, or vacation). Say, “My bag has some objects in it. These objects all have something to do with the same idea. I am going to show you each object. After you have seen them all, try to figure out the big idea that connects them.”
Show the objects one at a time by placing them on a table or under a document camera so they are projected for all to see. As each object is displayed, allow students to guess the big idea and discuss their guesses with a partner.
After students have seen all the objects, ask them to share their ideas about the big idea that connects all the objects. Come to a consensus about the big idea.
Say, “Each object in this bag was an important piece of information that we used to figure out the big idea. We do the same thing when we read. When we read a story, we have to use important pieces of information to determine what the story is about.”
Say, “In a story, the important pieces of information are called key details. The big idea that the story is about is called the central message. Sometimes a story is about a lesson, or something the author wants us to learn. We use the key details to find out the central message or lesson of a story.”
Display the Central Message graphic organizer (L-1-1-1_Central Message Graphic Organizer.docx) on a document camera or overhead for students to see. Explain the graphic organizer by saying, “We are going to read a story about four friends who try to help a very crabby bear. As we read the story, you are going to help me pick out the key details that will lead us to the central message or lesson. I will write each key detail in an outer square on the organizer. (Point to the squares.) When we have four key details, we will put our clues together to decide the big idea, or central message, of the story. I will write the central message in the center circle on the organizer.” (Point to the center circle.)
Introduce the book The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland. As you read the story to students, think aloud about the key details. Say, “Each animal makes a suggestion about helping the bear. These details are important to the story.” After you have read about the suggestions of zebra, moose, and lion, ask, “How are the suggestions of these three animals alike?” (These animals suggest something that makes them happy.) After reading the part about Timid Sheep, ask, “What does Timid Sheep realize?” (Bear wants to sleep.) “What does Sheep do?” (shaves off his wool and makes a pillow for Bear) “Why is Sheep’s idea different from the other animals’ ideas?” (It is what makes Bear happy.)
After you have read the story, go back through the text with students and determine the key details. Document them on the graphic organizer:
- Zebra thinks Bear will be happy with stripes but Bear stays cranky.
- Moose thinks Bear will be happy with antlers but Bear stays cranky.
- Lion thinks Bear will be happy with a mane but Bear stays cranky.
- Sheep realizes Bear wants to sleep and makes him a pillow.
After you have written the key details on the organizer, have a discussion about the possible central message or lesson of the story. Allow students to share their ideas and list them on the board. (examples: being kind, being humble, giving of yourself, being thoughtful toward others) Ask, “How do the key details help you decide the central message or lesson?” (The animals quickly realize that it is not what is on the outside that makes someone happy. Timid Sheep realizes that Bear just wants to sleep. Sheep shaves off his own wool and makes a soft pillow for Bear.)
Help students come to consensus, and then write the central message in the center box on the chart. For example: Give a person what he needs even if it is different from what you want or like. Point out that this could also be a lesson the author wants readers to learn.
Review the key details and the central message to make sure the key ideas support the central message the students chose. Then have students use the key details to retell the story.
This lesson may end here as a simple introduction to central message. However, if you feel students are ready to apply their knowledge of using key details to determine the central message or lesson, proceed with Part 2 of the lesson.
Ask, “What is a central message?” (the big idea of a story)“How do you determine the central message of a story?” (You look for key details throughout the story. The key details all connect to a single central message.) Remind students that a story sometimes has a lesson, or something the author wants readers to learn.
Place the graphic organizer from The Very Cranky Bear under a document camera or on an overhead projector. Have a volunteer share how the class determined the central message for this story.
Explain to students that they will now be using the graphic organizer to determine the central message or lesson for a book of their choice. Give each student a literary text at his/her reading level and a copy of the Central Message graphic organizer. Allow students to work in pairs or individually to read a text and use the graphic organizer to document key details and determine the central message of the story.
As students are working, walk around the room and make sure students understand the concept of a central message and how to determine it. Provide additional help where needed.
After all students have completed a graphic organizer, have them share and explain their work with someone who read a different book. Then, allow three or four students to share their work with the whole class. Observe students’ ability to identify four key details and the central message of a book. Determine whether reteaching is needed.
Graphic organizers can be collected and graded or saved in a portfolio.
- For students who need an opportunity for additional learning, review what a central message is by referring back to the objects in the bag. You may choose new objects with a new central message for more practice. Then read a short literary text with students and model again how to find key details and the central message.
- Provide additional support for students who may be struggling with accessing a text or filling out a graphic organizer. Pair students with a partner or have them work in a small group. Allow opportunities for oral assessment.
- For students who are ready to move beyond the standard, provide a central message or lesson. (example: Treat others the way you want to be treated.) Have students write a story that has this as the central message or lesson. Remind them to use key details that support the central message or lesson. Provide time for students to share their stories and have others identify the key details.