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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 11-12

Reading RST.11-12.2

RST.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Set the Stage

This standard requires students to be able to read a challenging scientific or technical text to determine main ideas or conclusions and to create an accurate summary of a concept, process, or informational passage. Students master and remember information that they can put into their own words. Additionally, in 11th and 12th grades, students should be able to accurately paraphrase and simplify complex scientific and technical information. In other words, they need to be able to explain the concepts in different but still accurate terms. Again, this is a demonstration of true, thorough comprehension, so practice this standard as a quick reading check or exit ticket at the end of class.

Example

Dress Rehearsal

Your physics teacher is droning on about black holes. In fact, you find yourself sinking into one until your elbow partner jostles you awake. You’ve been given the task of reading about black holes in your textbook. Then, having figured out the main points that are so eloquently described in mumbo-jumbo, you’ll put the difficult language into your own words.

As you read the section, you notice the following terms: thermonuclear fusion, gravitation, nuclear ashes, black dwarf, gravitational collapse, stellar material, shrunken configurations, and binaries. When linked together, these terms describe the two main processes stars go through and, at times, result in the creation of a black hole.

Using the handy glossary at the back of the textbook as well as context clues, you are able to simplify the definitions so they make sense to you: 

TermTextbook meaningWhat it means to me
Thermonuclear fusionNuclear fusion brought about by extremely high temperaturesThe splitting of an atom into two main parts accompanied by the release of much energy
GravitationNatural phenomenon of attraction between physical objects with mass or energyPull between two objects
Nuclear ashesRadioactive bi-products remaining after combustion of materials that produce energyLeft over matter
Black dwarfCollapsed star that has burned all its fuel sourceDead stars that no longer give off heat and light
Gravitational collapseA caving in of a mass, including the atoms, resulting in infinite density and enormous gravitational pullA caving of a mass that results in a never-ending structure that has an inescapable pull of gravity
Gravitational fieldA force field that exists in the space around every mass or group of massesGravity
Shrunken configurationsSmall arrangements of parts or elementsSmall structures
Binary starsPairs of stars that orbit each otherPairs of stars
Red giantA giant star in which the star has run out of its fuel source, helium, and the mass is changed to carbon and burns redStar at the end of its life that is dying out and will soon no longer give off heat and light

Using your own words, you’re then able to write a summary describing black holes and how they are formed. Your summary might look this:

Stars with no energy source that are more massive than our sun cave in on themselves. The collapse continues, never-ending, until there is no more empty space. The gravitational pull of these new structures, similar to a funnel, remains the same at the top, but at the bottom becomes so strong that nothing can escape it, even light. So, a structure is there, but it is not visible. The mass of the star, interestingly enough, has not changed.

These black holes are dangerous to astronauts traveling in space because they can’t see them, but if they get too close to the opening of one, they can eventually be pulled in due to the strength of gravity, never to be seen again. Whoops!

Nice. You’ve pulled apart difficult terms and explained what they mean. Putting them all together allows you to simplify the ideas in a complex text by writing an accurate summary of the material in your own words.

Lesson? Don’t get too close to a black hole. Stay awake!

Source: 

Hewitt, Paul G. Conceptual Physics, 3rd edition. California: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1997.

That’s a Wrap

By pulling out important terms, using the textbook to understand those terms, and then putting those concepts into their own words, your students have taken the step toward being able to summarize and simplify passages from difficult texts. You’ll see their light bulbs turn on. They won’t get sucked in by a nasty black hole.

Drill

Fill-in-the-blank with the appropriate word.

paraphrase central ideas accurate complex
glossary dictionary conclusions

1. The primary purpose of reading a passage is to determine ____________ and ____________ of a text.

2. A _____________ concept or process can be broken down into details or steps in order to better understand them.

3. To ________________ means to restate the information in your own words.

4. In paraphrasing you might simplify information, but the information must still be ________________.

5. Two references that can help in paraphrasing are a _____________ and a ________________.

ANSWERS: 

1. The correct answer is central ideas, conclusions. The first thing you want to figure out is what the text is really about. What are the author’s main points or claims?

2. The correct answer is complex. Complex means consisting of many connected parts, so the best way to understand a complex idea is to break it down into its individual parts and try to understand them one at a time.

3. The correct answer is paraphrase. Paraphrase and summarize are often confused. When you summarize something, you usually shorten the information, giving just the main ideas and leaving out less important details. When you paraphrase, usually your version of the explanation will be about the same length, but in different words. Paraphrasing doesn’t cut info out; rather, you try to simplify the information by explaining it in more accessible terms.

4. The correct answer is accurate. Super important! Make sure as you try to simplify something that you don’t change or leave information out. Simpler doesn’t mean less correct.

5. The correct answer is glossary, dictionary. Even when you basically know what terms mean, looking at the actual definition in a glossary or dictionary will often help you better explain and simplify the meaning of the word.