Do these Q's ask for the same thing?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by NoviceTutor, Dec 12, 2008.

  1. NoviceTutor

    NoviceTutor Companion

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    Dec 12, 2008

    Hi,

    I was wondering if these questions below ask for the same thing?

    One is "What's the story about?"
    Another is "What's the main idea of the story?"

    Please help, and your suggestion is very much appreciated.
     
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  3. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I'd say they don't. I think the first question invites a synopsis or summary of the action and the second asks for a one-word or one-phrase theme or, where appropriate, the moral of the story.

    Let's see what everyone else has to say.
     
  4. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    That's very much a matter of interpretation, I think. It could be viewed as either asking for the same thing, or asking for something different.

    If it's different, "What's the story about?" would be about the characters or what happened in the story. "What's the main idea?" could be about the theme of the story.

    edit: The one counterpoint I'd add to TeacherGroupie is "What's the story about?" could be interpreted also as a question about the theme.
     
  5. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Dec 12, 2008

    Oh, and welcome to A to Z, NoviceTutor!
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Ooo, 3Sons: great minds running in the same... um... channels.
     
  7. NoviceTutor

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    Thank you, TG and 3Sons. Your feedback has been very helpful. But would you please confirm whether or not my understanding is correct to say that "typically" the question "What's the story about" explicitly asks for the characters of the story?
     
  8. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Hmm... I think you could say that answering the question will involve mentioning the characters - though not necessarily all of them.
     
  9. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    It doesn't 'explicitly' ask for the character names - it would be written in the question if it did. You might assume that one would include the basic who, what, where, when info to answer the question.

    It could also be answered in the form: somebody wants something, something prevents that from happening, so he or she does this....
     
  10. teachertexas

    teachertexas Rookie

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    I would say that "What's the story about?" is asking for a summary statement. This could be up to three or four sentences.

    "What's the main idea of the story?" is asking for a few words or one sentence that tells the big idea of a story. On our state tests main idea is often asked with the question, "What is this story mainly about?"

    Hope this helps!
     
  11. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    I guess it's up for interpretation. I agree with the above poster. Here is my take.

    Let's say you read a book about Harriet Tubman. A student might say that the main idea was Harriet Tubman was a kind African American who tried to free slaves.

    What is the story about would more likely be answered by a student like this: H.T. was a slave who escaped from Maryland, went North and worked with other people to free dozens of slaves. She operated an underground railroad which was really her chain of helpers. She helped them travel to Canada and find jobs.
     
  12. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Before I give an answer I need to understand the context of your question. Is this for an assignment in school? Are you a teacher trying to decide which question you want to use?
     
  13. NoviceTutor

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    Thanks again, everyone. I begin to see the pattern now: summary and theme.

    Hi Dfleming,
    My question is in regards to the worksheets.
     
  14. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    So someone you are tutoring is given a worksheet that has a question asking those questions and you're not sure about what it's specifically asking?
     
  15. NoviceTutor

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    Yes.
     
  16. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    The first is a summary, the second is paraphrasing.
     
  17. 3Sons

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    Dec 15, 2008


    It certainly doesn't explicitly ask for the characters in the story. In fact, it's not an explicit question at all, and if it's an open-ended question is a relatively poor one for testing.

    For example, take the classic work, "I am Legend", which was a classic book turned into a movie. If someone casually asked me what it was about without having read it, I might give a rundown of the basic situation of the last man on earth fighting off vampires. If I knew they'd read it and were confused, I'd much more likely tell them it was about isolation, the need for social contact, and how perception can make situations seem very different ("I am Legend" is absolutely one of the best books I've ever read regarding this sort of theme, and the movie tragically obliterates it).

    And then, how would you tell what this story is "about"? Certainly not through a description of the main characters -- in fact, it sould be difficult to avoid speaking directly to the theme(s) (go read it -- it's fun and short).
     
  18. Happy Chatter

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    I think the first question is clearly literal.....what is this story about.?.....the second is inferential, insomuch as each one of us can infer different things from any given theme. The context in which you ask these questions will clearly determine which question is appropriate.

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  19. Bored of Ed

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    I don't see why "What is the story about" implies characters. That would be <i>"Who</i> is the story about?"

    However, I agree that the first allows for a more detailed summary while the main idea would be more succint, and is often the theme. Also, "main idea" is a more directed question because students have probably learned about finding the main idea and that question cues them to use those strategies. I have students who will give blank stares when asked what the story is about, yet when I point out to them that this is a type of main-idea question, the light clicks on...
     

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