Track Individual Ideas to Analyze Their Influences
Students tend to do well when asked to retell what happened on a particular page or summarize what a portion of a text was all about. Where they struggle is looking at the evolution or development of a single idea across a text. And harder still is looking at the development of two or more ideas and how they influence or impact one another. This thinking falls under what is often referred to as the “relationship standard.” (Common Core RL/RI 3, Indiana RL/RN 2.3.)
The first step toward mastering the relationship standard is to track a single idea presented in a text. Using a simple timeline, students collect information as it’s revealed from beginning to end. For example:
- In literature, list the major events in the story’s plot.
- In a science passage about earth & space, list the steps in the earth’s revolution around the sun.
- In a social studies passage, list the smaller battles and memorable events that comprised the war.
Most students can list these kinds of isolated events (steps, actions, concepts, etc.) within the linear boxes of a traditional timeline. However, this does not constitute the level of thinking required for the “relationship” standard. That is merely a retelling or summarization and falls under Common Core RL/RI 2 and Indiana RL/RN 2.2.
Students have to do more than track one idea from beginning to end. They have to track two or more ideas and infer their connection. This requires adding another row to the timeline to track a second facet from the same text.
- ROW 1: Track the story events. ROW 2: Track a character’s actions/feelings during each event.
- ROW 1: Track the revolution of the earth around the sun. ROW 2: Track the changing seasons during each phase of the revolution.
- ROW 1: Track the smaller battles and memorable events that comprised the war. ROW 2: Note the setting during each of those battles/events (e.g., location, weather, mood, etc.).
The secret is to make sure the information collected in both rows is happening simultaneously. This converts it from a simple timeline to an Interaction Tracker. With parallel or synchronized information stacked on top of each other, students are able to identify patterns, consistencies, tendencies, or commonalities. This allows them to draw conclusions about how one idea, event, or character influenced another.