Explain how information from multiple representations of a topic contributes to an understanding of the topic (Inclusive Big Idea #7)

What are students learning?

Reading Informational Text

Grade 4: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #7: Explain how information from multiple representations of a topic contributes to an understanding of the topic

Standard: Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears. RI.4.7

How could I teach this?

Think about how instructional strategies and activities can give students multiple ways to engage with learning. One way won’t work for all, so how can you remove and reduce barriers for all students?

  • T-Chart Graphic Organizer: On the left, record text information that helps a student learn about a topic or concept. Providing an option to use graphic organizers with sentence starters and icons may help students to record their ideas. See this TIP Sheet for more information on graphic organizers. On the right, record the student’s answers to the following critical thinking questions:
    • What is the most important information and why?
    • What are the most important facts?
    • Why did the author want the reader to learn these?
  • Sort to Understand: Use examples and non-examples to teach illustrations from text. Provide cards with text and cards with different types of illustrations (e.g., map, diagram, photograph, graphics). Ask students to sort examples of text from examples of illustrations and discuss what they learn from each.
  • 5 W’s: Provide students with an informational text that contains illustrations such as maps, photographs, or other graphics. Have students highlight all illustrations within the informational text. Discuss how the illustrations differ from the actual text. Review each type of illustration in the text. Make a chart with each type of illustration and draw examples of each. Ask students questions about types of illustrations and which they would use to answer specific questions about the text. For example:
    • Which illustration would you use to answer the question, “In what year did Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address?” Students answer “timeline”
  • Question-Answer Relationship (QAR): Model the four types of questions. Make these questions available on handouts or with prompts students can return to, so the information is presented in more than one way (i.e., not just verbally). Record and caption a video of you modeling the four types of questions for students who want to watch it multiple times and hear your thinking.
    • Right There: Pose a question to the class that may be answered by looking in more than one location of the text, noting which representation provided students with the information they needed.
    • Think and Search: Ask a question that may be answered by looking in more than one location of the text or in multiple texts. noting which representation provided students with the information they needed. .
    • Author and Me: Pose a question that requires “reading” the multiple texts and using knowledge that is in your head. Ask students to note which representation provided students with the information they needed.
    • On My Own: Ask a related question that can be answered without having to read the text. These are usually higher-level thinking questions, but have students tie their thinking to information presented in each of the representations. .
  • Think Aloud: The purpose of asking students questions about texts is to get them into the habit of self-questioning as they read. To model this, read aloud a high-interest informational text. Periodically, model how to stop and ask questions. Provide space for students to record ideas and offer prompts to help them self-question. For this particular think-aloud, identify a photo/graphic/diagram and model how you distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text. See this TIP Sheet for more information on how to model using a Think Aloud.

Don’t stop here! Remember to reduce barriers for all students.

Make reducing barriers a process - take a few minutes to think about your process! Is there a barrier related to:

  • interest or engagement? Think about how to incorporate student’s lived experiences, culture, and interests… 
  • background knowledge? Think about how to highlight key ideas and define key vocabulary… 
  • showing what they know? Think about having options for how they use learning tools and technology to communicate…

For example, one possible barrier is the amount of information that a student needs to hold in mind.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • be aware of how much sensory input occurs at once, perhaps offer the option to use headphones
  • show examples and provide answers to check along the way
  • provide templates or graphic organizers
  • allow use of spell checks and other tools 

Use these Inclusive Strategies to help reduce barriers.

Tell me more about this Inclusive Big Idea (I need a refresher)

Brush up on the content of this Inclusive Big Idea. It will help you and your colleagues to understand and teach this content better.

  • The Big Idea: Explain how information from multiple representations of a topic contributes to understanding of the topic
  • Tell me more about… Multiple Representations of Information
    • Visuals used in informational text may include charts, graphs, tables, timelines, or diagrams. Students are constantly gathering information from a variety of media. It is important for them to develop the ability to determine the source of information so they can critically evaluate the credibility of the information and determine what is factual from what is shaped by their opinion or the opinion of the author.
  • Tell me more about… Main Topic
    • The main ideas of informational text are the most important points that the author is trying to make about a specific topic. Identifying and categorizing main ideas within informational text is critical to success because it allows readers to prioritize information in a text. It provides the reader with a framework for understanding and recalling the important ideas in the text.
    • Identifying the Main Topic: Continuum
      1. Identify the key words of a sentence
      2. Identify key words or topic of a paragraph
      3. Identify the topic sentence of a paragraph
      4. Recognize the explicitly stated point of a paragraph
      5. Infer the main idea of a paragraph
      6. Recognize the relationships among ideas in related paragraphs in longer selections
      7. Infer relationships among ideas in related paragraphs in longer selections
      8. Determine the main topic or of an entire text.


Looking for more suggestions? Target student common misconceptions, build on interdisciplinary links, and implement strategies and supports across multiple lessons or units.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Visuals: Students may overlook visuals in instruction. Remember that comprehension can be supported by visuals. Explicitly teach ways that visuals support reader understanding of text rather than being superfluous to the content.
  • Social Studies: Students can use illustrations, including maps and graphs, to describe the text
  • Science/Math: Students can use illustrations, including charts, graphs, and diagrams, to better understand the text.

Everyday Connections

  • In the News: Have students review news stories from TV or online and have them discuss what information is taken in from the text/spoken words and what is gathered from the pictures/video.

Explore other Inclusive Big Ideas to think about the content you are teaching. How can you connect what you are teaching now to what has been taught before or what will be taught in the future?

Other TIES resources:

Inclusive Big Ideas: Standards-based resources for inclusive classrooms | TIES Center

The Inclusive Big Ideas were adapted from resources created by the NCSC Project , a federal grant from the US Department of Education (PR/Award #: H373X100002), However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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