Eager to have my students fully immersed in identifying main ideas and details within text, I hurriedly sped through teaching categorization. Only spending one lesson on the skill--I merely provided an overview. Quickly realizing that students were not truly understanding how to extrapolate the main idea within provided text, I decided it was time to revisit the skill of categorizing. Excited to teach it well, I found some potter’s pails to provide my students with tangible manipulatives so that they would have access to the information through an authentic, multi-sensory learning experience. Although nervous to have to go back to the drawing board to re-teach a skill that I had assumed that my students had previously digested, I made the decision to slowly guide my students using the gradual release of responsibility model (I--We--You).
To truly focus on the skill, I chose to remove the pressure of language-heavy text and instead use picture books. In the past, I had thought that this may have been too puerile for my students; however, they were able to genuinely understand the concept of categorizing and had fun doing so.
The class was then able to practice the progression from categorizing with manipulatives, to webbing, and finally to creating an entire summary. Students were able to visualize how all the pieces fit together. They also understood the purpose and goal behind the categorizing exercises and for the first time, they recognized the big picture. To bring in a metacognitive layer, I asked them to perform a quick write, reflecting on the lessons and their experience with categorization and how it impacted their thinking and learning. These were some of the responses that I received:
“I really liked using the children’s books because I could quickly find the main ideas.”
“Having the buckets made it easier to sort the information.”
“Can we do this more?”
“Using the index cards helped [me] go from categorizing to making a [top-down] web.”
Reteaching the foundational skill of categorization has undoubtedly taught me a valuable lesson and has grounded my students’ ability to independently distinguish main ideas from details and recognize relationships.