Teaching Main Idea and Detail

In the Common Core Standards, the first two standards under ELA-Literacy, within both the literature and informational text reading, address learning “Key Ideas and Details.” (I will discuss ELA-Literacy Standard 3 under Inferencing).

Identifying key ideas and details skill can prove difficult for a student with ASD due to weak central coherence not facilitating the recognition of main ideas versus details in a text.

Teachers can support high functioning autistic students’ abilities to strengthen central coherence by teaching these students how the details relate to a larger whole.

It again requires explicit practice with the teacher, in learning how authors leave “clues” about the main idea in the details about which they write.

Guided reading is probably the best vehicle for this type of instruction.

Not only is the teacher, as a more knowledgeable other, guiding students where they need direct instruction, there is power in peers modeling for the student with ASD the type of thinking and responding that needs to take place in order to successfully identify main/central idea versus details within a text.

This is true of all types of comprehension instruction.

There is a great deal of power in having the teacher target a student’s specific instructional needs in a small group setting while including peers who bring a diverse comprehension skill set to the conversation.



The Phone


I do not like to talk on the phone.

It is hard for me to not see someone’s face (although I don’t always look at a person’s face when I am talking with them) when I am talking to them.

I get easily distracted and forget to listen.

I know that I am in trouble when there is a long pause.

Oh, no!

What did they just say?

Was it a question I was supposed to answer?

Other times, I just don’t know what to say in return.

Do I ask a question?

It’s so hard to stay on topic.

Sometimes, to be honest, it’s boring.

Being able to video chat is better.

I sometimes play with the buttons and disconnect the speaker, because I still don’t like it when I just have to talk and listen to someone else talk.

I’m glad that I don’t have to talk on the phone very often.

Whenever I do, it’s very short.

Band, Again


We had weeks of band skills tests after winter break.

When we were not doing our skills tests, we could read or even play video games.

We were not supposed to talk.

People talked.

I didn’t.

I played music from memory.

I played my clarinet to match what I heard the teacher play.

I played our concert songs for him again.

When it was all over, I was the first chair for clarinet in sixth grade band.

I don’t think that means anything special, except I sit up front.

My mom was really happy about it though.

I’m glad that I got time to play video games during band.

But I’m also glad that we are going back to learning songs and practicing our instruments.

Not everyone followed the rules during skills testing and that really frustrated me.

I don’t know why people like to talk so much, anyway.


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My school gives us an email account.

My friends from fifth grade have been emailing me throughout the summer.

“What have you been doing?”

“Have you seen anyone?”

I wrote that I saw Johnny and Jimmy.

Summer has been a little boring, so I don’t know what else to write.

I have to “think of the other person” and “ask them a question about themselves.”

So I do.

And my friends write back.

Sarah shares about what her brother has been researching: Solar freakin’ roadways.

I think that freakin’ is a bad word.

I hope I don’t get into trouble for reading it.

I wonder if I should tell her to tell her brother that he shouldn’t use that word.

The video is interesting, though.

A good idea.

I like how Sarah wants to change the world.

I’m glad that she’s my friend.

Jimmy emails too.

He asks me what I ate for dinner.

I tell him, but he never writes back.

I’m not sure why he asked.

I’m not sure why he didn’t write back either.

I even asked him about his summer.

Mea in Kindergarten


Mea’s teacher really understood how to balance time for her to be silly and time for her to focus. She would only have to say, “Mea, it’s time to get the sillies out,” and Mea would know that she had to settle down.

Mea could have gone to school all day (she was in half-day Kindergarten). She loved all of the kids she was able to spend time with – better than being with just dad.

Truly, whenever Mea would be out around town and see a kid, they all seemed to know who she was.

During this time, we saw Mea start to collect every scrap of paper, pencil, eraser, and bracelet that was given to her at school or at Sunday school.

I would find them all over her room – sometimes hidden, and sometimes not.

I would have to go through and “clean” out her collection, especially because sometimes it was just a blank piece of paper.

This was different than with the boys – they were just messy and didn’t put things away.

Mea was holding on to everything that was “hers.”

It gave us more to think about as she began her school career.

More Reading by Memory


Switching to a school with a slightly different approach to reading helped us see just how little Kieran knew about phonemic awareness and phonics, and how much he relied on his memory to read.

While still reading “above” grade level, now that he was headed into short chapter books, his frustration with how to say multisyllabic and unfamiliar words was clear.

He reverted to looking at the first letter or two within the word and guessing at what it might say, based on the context of what he was reading. Sometimes he was right, which reinforced for him that he was “fine.” Many times he was incorrect in his guess, which helped us show him why we wanted to help him better decode those types of words.

While he would struggle with phonics again, later on in his elementary career, we were lucky to “catch” this behavior and need at the end of first grade. It might not have come out if we had not changed schools, and saw his reading through a different district’s eyes.

#SOL17 – Day 26 – Teach-Write-Life Balance

On Thursday night, Keystone State Reading Association held a Twitter chat with author and teacher, Jennie Brown, about how to maintain balance in one’s personal and professional life.

Sadly, I struggled mightily with this balance, especially toward writing, this weekend.

We are trying to sell our current home. Therefore, we spent the weekend cleaning our house (in anticipation of our first showing) and combing through the active listings to find our next house.

When I wasn’t cleaning or combing, I was binge watching The West Wing, which I had never watched even one episode of, until yesterday. No excuse. Just a respite from the stress we’ve embarked upon this week.

Then there was small group, church service, and softball try-outs.

But I cannot give up now. I have committed to blogging each day in the month of March. It’s the 26th day for goodness sake. I only have five more days to go.

Also, I have set a personal goal (a marathon 😉 to write every day (of the week) this whole year. It’s only the third month of said year.

So, here I am. Not eloquent, not witty, not insightful. But a writer – writing. That is going to have to suffice for tonight.