School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 2

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 2.0 Comprehension of Informational Text

Indicator 4. Determine important ideas and messages in informational texts


To show proficiency of the skills stated in this indicator, a reader will express an understanding of the key points or thoughts in the text, which are the important ideas and messages about the topic. Sometimes these are directly stated in the texts encountered by the early reader. In other cases, in may be necessary for the reader to use the clues in the text to determine an implied message or idea.

In order to understand important ideas or messages in a text, an early reader should determine the author's apparent purpose for writing it. Most authors of informational text write to inform or persuade a reader about his or her selected topic. Informational text may also be telling the reader how to do something. The author's purpose needs to be implied using clues such as organization of information, text features, and the author's style of writing. Primary readers will most likely encounter persuasive text in the form of advertisements. They will learn to recognize recipes and sets of directions as reading to perform a task. They may further refine the purpose of informing as "telling about _________", "explaining why __________" , "describing ________", etc. Readers need to determine the author's apparent purpose for writing text in order to decide if it will be helpful for them in fulfilling their own purpose for reading.

An early reader identifies the main idea in an entire informational text or smaller portions of the text. In order to determine main idea, a reader must identify the topic or subject of the text. The main idea can be directly stated or implied. Early readers conduct prereading routines that access the title, photographs or illustrations, table of contents, or opening sentences of the informational text. The topic/subject of the text is determined during these before reading routines. Then, after reading the text, a reader identifies the main point that the author/text makes about the topic or subject. For example, during prereading routines a student might determine that the topic/subject of the text is cats. After reading, the student would be able to state that the text was mainly about raising and caring for pet cats. Students can also identify the main idea of a single paragraph or section of text. Relationships between chapter titles and headings and the text that follows as an aid in identifying main ideas can also be explored in the early grades.

Efficient readers summarize the text or a portion of text both during and after reading. During reading, readers pause and organize the important information that they are reading into their own words. Sometimes they write down notes or add information on an organizer. This helps solidify the meaning of the text. After reading, readers restate the main points in their own words and in an order that will make the information easy to remember. This is different from retelling. In retelling, the reader attempts to restate all of the information from the text. In summarizing, the reader tells only what's important. As texts grow in complexity, summarizing allows a reader to focus on essential ideas to clarify understanding.

Early readers move beyond literal meaning to draw conclusions and make generalizations from text to form new understanding. Readers use the details and facts from the text in combination with what they already know to reach a sensible deduction about the topic. This new understanding is therefore dependent on both the text and the experiences and knowledge of the reader about the topic. In informational text, conclusions and generalizations may be made based on information from both the text and visuals. For conclusions to be valid, they must be drawn from sufficient evidence in the text. For example, if a student is reading a biography and a single incident in the life of the subject is described, it would be invalid for reader to attach a character trait to that person based on that one event. However, if multiple incidents are described that demonstrate a character trait, then there is enough evidence to draw that conclusion. By drawing valid conclusions and generalizations from the text, readers will obtain a greater understanding of the facts presented about the topic as well as the author's point of view about the topic.

When reading informational text, readers need to distinguish between a fact and an opinion. It is important for early readers to understand that authors of informational text often mix opinions in with the facts about a topic and that sometimes it is hard to distinguish a fact and an opinion. A fact is something that can be proven. An example of a sentence that shows a fact is "Dalmatian puppies grow into big dogs." An opinion is what someone believes or feels about something. An example of an opinion is "Puppies are very cute--but puppies grow up into dogs." Authors use facts to support their opinions. Once a reader can identify an author's opinion about a topic, the main idea or message can be more clearly understood. Distinguishing fact from opinion has become increasingly important today as readers encounter much of their information electronically. This skill will help early readers view informational text critically.

As readers encounter different forms of informational text they identify how someone might use the text. A reader could question the utility of the text by asking questions such as: "Is this a text that will give me interesting information about the topic for my own interest and enjoyment?" or "Is this a text that I can use to gather important facts and details about the topic in order to write a report or prepare a presentation?" or "Is this a text that can help me form an opinion about a topic?" By considering the answers to these questions the reader can determine whether the text is appropriate for their own purpose and generalize about the usefulness of the text to other readers.