I have been trying to put into words or a chart the reading curriculum that has evolved in the ESL program I coordinate. I have made a few tentative steps in that direction because some day I may have to hire some new teachers. I want to be able to give them a sense of how the classes fit together. This became an issue for me when I taught an intermediate reading class and ended the semester giving the final and finding 20% of final consisted of fact and opinion items. I had not taught fact and opinion in any detail because it was not on the schedule I had inherited as more than a mention. The two previous teachers who had taught the class most of the time over the last 8 years apparently previewed the final exam and taught accordingly. I didn’t preview the final.
Any way, now I have been trying to put together a more balanced final and schedule for the class. As I am doing so, I am thinking about what we teach. Today, I explored main idea as for what we need to teach about main idea. I did it without a textbook, but with the textbook and materials in mind. Now, the materials suggest that we teach general and specific with main idea, and I have done so. However, that doesn’t work so well. General is not an absolute term to apply to main ideas.
A main idea consists of a topic and a comment (controlling idea). The topic does not have to be general to be a topic of a main idea. I can write “Gainesville is a beautiful city.” Gainesville is my topic, yet it is specific. The comment generally is abstract because it consists of a judgment, evaluation, or some type of opinion. Perhaps that is the general part. But then what do I do with exercises asking me to identify general words and specific words? How do I relate them to main ideas?
As I pondered this problem, I began to see how this might confuse students more than necessary. How do I fix it?