School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 6

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 and analyze 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. Sometimes these ideas and messages are directly stated in the text, but for a more complex text these ideas and messages are implied. Then a reader must synthesize ideas and information from across the text to determine the important idea or message. To synthesize ideas and information to determine an important idea or message, a reader should note important information, relationships among ideas, the organization of these ideas or information, etc…and then consider how these parts of the text form the whole text. Looking at how these elements of the text are connected will allow a reader to determine the text’s important ideas and messages.

The author’s purpose, either directly stated in the text or implied in the text, is the direct reason for the text. Determining the author’s purpose is a step toward determining a text’s important idea and/or message. Authors compose informational text to inform, explain, persuade, or express personal ideas that arise from a selected topic. These informational texts are written for different audiences; the selected audience should be apparent through the author’s choice of topic, word choice, organization, and text features. Being attentive to the text features, text organization, and word selection helps a reader to determine the author’s purpose. Understanding the author’s purpose focuses a reader and thereby increases comprehension of the text.

Knowing the author’s purpose helps a reader realize how someone might use a text. A text may be accessed for personal or academic use. Using author’s purpose as a guideline, critical readers can best determine whether a text fits their purposes.

The ability to distinguish between facts and opinions is a prerequisite skill for identifying and explaining an author’s argument, viewpoint, or perspective. A fact can be defined as a statement that can be proven true while an opinion is a belief about a subject. Authors use a combination of fact and opinions in their texts, most often using facts to support their opinions. An author’s opinion with accompanying evidence, facts, and examples that support the opinion is the author’s argument, viewpoint, or perspective.

To state and support main ideas and messages, a reader must identify the most important idea in the text or a portion of the text. The first step is to identify the topic of the text or portion of text. In an informational text, this topic is often evident in the title or first paragraph(s) of the text. After continuing to read, a reader must discern the point or assertion that the author/text makes about the topic. The combination of topic and assertion is the main idea or message of the text. Messages are more often found in complex, subjective texts and are author based. Main ideas are more text-based. Some main ideas and messages are not directly stated in the text. Then a reader must use information from the text to determine the main idea or message. Once a reader has stated the main idea or message, a reader can support that main idea or message with information from the text or a portion of the text.

To fully comprehend a text, paraphrasing or summarizing a text or a portion of a text is an essential skill. A reader can better comprehend the important information in a text if he/she can restate complex ideas in simpler language. When a reader can recount these ideas in language that makes sense to him/her, that reader is paraphrasing. To summarize an informational text, a reader must determine the most important ideas in that text and state those in his/her own words. As texts grow in complexity, summarizing allows a reader to focus on essential information.

Authors use certain interesting information, examples, etc… to clarify, highlight, or enhance their writing. A critical must be able to distinguish between essential information and information that is not related, or peripheral, to the main idea of text. The skill allows a reader to disregard redundant or extraneous information when organizing to summarize a text or to identify its main idea or message. As critical readers develop their own ideas and opinions about information in a text, they can determine their degree of agreement or disagreement with the author.

To identify relationships between and among ideas within a text or across multiple texts, a reader is comparing or contrasting text ideas, elements, and features. For example, when a reader discerns an organizational pattern within a text or across texts and determines how information is presented within that organizational pattern, a reader is identifying a relationship between ideas. Again, if an author makes an assertion about an idea and a reader can note how the text furthers that idea, a relationship between ideas is identified. Once that relationship between and among ideas is identified, a reader will think more analytically and critically about that relationship, which leads to a higher level of comprehension.

Drawing conclusions or synthesizing ideas from informational text relies first upon a basic understanding of the text. If a reader can first state a main idea or message from a text and can summarize a text, the task becomes simpler. When a reader draws conclusions or synthesizes information from a text, a reader is using all available information in the text—organization, text features, important ideas, etc…A reader compiles this information, reviews the information, and makes a text-based judgment that is new to the reader since this judgment is not directly stated in the text. This new judgment is dependent upon text information but is external to the text.

Once a reader has analyzed the text and reviewed that information to draw conclusions about or synthesize this information, a judgment can be made about how a reader might best use that text. A reader might find that a text serves as pleasure reading or that a text could be well used for an academic project. A text might prove a better resource for younger rather than older students. Or a reader might determine a degree or use or interest for a potential reader.

Connecting text to prior knowledge or experience helps a reader personally identify with a text. A reader identifies similarities with what is being described, explained, or clarified with what has been experienced, heard, or read about. Then a critical reader forms opinions about the information within a text during and after reading and can develop his/her ideas about that information.