I Get It! Breaking Down The Power of Names

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Working in pairs, then in groups of four, SWBAT determine the most concise expression of the main idea as a mini summary of an assigned paragraph from The New Yorker essay, "The Power of Names."

Big Idea

From "I have no idea what I just read" to "I get it!": Teaching students to map their way through dense text.

Partner Work

15 minutes

This lesson tends to take the whole period.  It requires that students have completed their homework of developing paragraph-by-paragraph mini summaries of The New Yorker essay,  (Student Mini Summaries).

I first arrange students in pairs and assign them one of the paragraphs from the essay. This tends to work almost evenly with my class size of 25, since there are seven paragraphs in the essay; each paragraph has two sets of students working on it (Note:  If you have done the first paragraph or two as a class already, as I did in the previous lesson, then adjust your paragraph assignments accordingly).  The job of each pair of students is to first re-read aloud to each other the paragraph they have been assigned, in order to refresh their memories.  The next step is for them to blend their separate  mini summaries of the paragraph into one (or no more than two) concise sentence that captures the main idea of the paragraph.  I allow seven to ten minutes for this portion.


Groups of Four

15 minutes

The next step is to combine the separate pairs of students who were working on the same paragraph into a group of four.  Once re-grouped, students repeat the same steps as they did with their partners: re-read the paragraph and develop the most concise expression of the paragraph's main idea as a mini summary.  I allow the same seven to ten minutes for this portion.  The goal of this scaffolded grouping is to guarantee that my students have interacted with the text, specifically their assigned paragraph, three times before they arrive at their final determination, for three is indeed a magic number: first, individually as homework, second, as a pair, and third, as a group of four.  In fact, if times permits, I may even end this lesson by paying proper homage to the number three.

Once each group has settled on their final expression, they choose one member to go up to the white board and add their mini summary in the spot reserved for their paragraph.

Whole Group Discussion

40 minutes

When all groups have written their mini summaries on the board, we review each one in chronological order, providing an opportunity to review and discuss the content of the essay and to determine if we are in agreement with the mini summaries of each paragraph (Whole Group Summaries).

The final portion of this lesson is meant to lay the ground work for future student essay writing, particularly argument writing.  The word "thesis" and its definition has been written on the white board, above their summaries, and I ask students to identify where the author's thesis occurs in the essay.  Most already know what a thesis is and that it is generally found in the first paragraph.  I then ask them if they can identify what type of essay it it, and they will generally say informative before arriving at persuasive (which the Common Core refers to as "argument").

I write the word "FUNCTION" to the left of their mini summaries on the white board, and proceed to ask them as a whole class what they think the function of each paragraph in the essay is.  As they determine each paragraph's function, I keep track of it on the white board.  Thus, the end result becomes not only an overall understanding of the essay through their mini summaries, but also an understanding of how the author has organized his essay.