Lesson: Boxes and Bullets: Main Idea

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Lesson Objective

Students will use a boxes and bullets graphic organizer to find the main idea and details of an informational text.

Lesson Plan

Connection (3-5 mins): Students should be seated on the carpet with a partner.  Students will be expected to turn and talk to this partner throughout the lesson.  Yesterday we learned yet another way that authors organize informational texts.  We learned about main idea and details.  This is a very clear way to organize a text and most informational texts are organized this way.  We were also able to add a main idea web to our toolkit of ways to find main idea.  Today, we will learn a new tool to find main idea and details when working with informational texts.

Teach/Active Engagement (10-12 mins): Teacher unveils a pre-created chart with boxes and bullets (refer to attachment).  This is another tool we can use to find the main idea and details of a text.  In the box we add our main idea of the section and underneath where the bullets are, we list the important details that support that main idea.  Remember often an author will put the main idea in a topic sentence of a paragraph, but this may not always be the case.  Watch me as I try to use our new tool for the next paragraph in the article we began yesterday, The Weird and Wonderful Octopus. 

Teacher reads aloud the fourth paragraph of the article about how an octopus defends itself.  I learned so much in that paragraph.  Octopus’s really are interesting animals.  Now that I read the paragraph I need to understand the main idea.  I want to make sure I understand what is most important so that I am making meaning of the text.  The topic sentence in this paragraph says, “ the amazing octopus has many ways to defend itself from predators”.  This makes me think that maybe the main idea of this paragraph is ways that an octopus can defend itself.  I will add that in the main idea box of our graphic organizer.  Teacher adds main idea to class chart.

Now that I understand the main idea I need to reread to find all the important details that support my main idea.  For our boxes and bullets diagram I will focus on three important details but this number can change depending on the paragraph or article you are reading. 

Teacher rereads the paragraph aloud.  Now I think I have a good idea of the supporting details in this paragraph.  The first detail is that an octopus can escape predators by using jet propulsion to swim really quickly.  I will add this to our class chart under the first bullet.   

Now it’s your turn to try! Turn and tell your partner another way the octopus can defend itself against predators.  Students should turn and discuss with their partners, allow time for students to reread the paragraph silently if necessary.  Teacher allows partners to share out their responses.  Teacher charts the response.  You all did a great job finding the second way an octopus can defend itself.  I will add the octopus can squirt ink at a predator that causes the predator to go blind.  This is important because then the predator can’t follow the octopus.

Remember, there are three ways in this paragraph that an octopus is able to defend itself.  Turn and tell your partner the third and final important detail in this paragraph.  Students should turn and discuss with their carpet partner.  Teacher allows partners to share responses and charts the responses on the class chart.  Teacher should add that the octopus can change colors to blend in with the surroundings. 

Readers, I am so proud of the hard work you completed today.  You were able to find the main idea and details of a very difficult text.  Today, when you return to your seats I want you to try to use the same tool, the boxes and bullets graphic organizer to find the main idea and details in your own independent reading books.

Independent Reading:  Students should return to their seats.  Teacher should pass out a graphic organizer and ensure all students have a “just right” informational text at their seats for independent reading time.  During this time the teacher should circulate to help students who may be having difficulty with the assignment.

Exit Slip/Share (5-10 mins):  Readers, you were all so focused during independent reading time today.  We read for fifteen minutes independently! Each day we are growing more in our reading stamina.  Today, before we move to another subject I want to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of main ideas and details.  I am going to place the octopus article back on the overhead. I will read aloud the next paragraph in our article.  As I read aloud I want you to complete another boxes and bullets graphic organizer to turn in to me at the end of the workshop time.  Remember the main idea goes into the box and the details go under each bullet.  Teacher reads aloud the paragraph about how an octopus is a predator.  Students complete graphic organizer and submit to teacher.  Teacher should use this exit slip to determine what students need remediation with this skill and which students mastered the concept.

Reflection:  This is the second of a two-part lesson on main idea and details.  I find that students do much better on this lesson because they are familiar with the article (used in the previous lesson) as well as with the process of finding main ideas and details.  The goal of this lesson is to give students more tools to find main idea and details.  If students are ready for a more challenging activity I would suggest allowing students to read the paragraph on their own.  I have many struggling readers in my room who benefit from the read aloud portion of the exit slip but the lesson could easily be differentiated for higher readers. 

Lesson Resources

Octopus Informational Text    Reading Passage
Boxes and Bullets Graphic Organizer   Activity


Sue Fleming Posted 10 months ago:

You have made my life easy...thanks!

Ashley S. Green Posted one year ago:


Lucy still does not give as much information.

Thanks Amber for all of your hard work!

Jennifer McDonald Posted one year ago:

Thank you for this lesson.  I used it with my students.  It worked out just the way I wanted.

ada akins Posted one year ago:
Thank you Amber Smith for sharing this wonderful lesson.
wendy mcelhinny Posted one year ago:
I did not notice where you gave Lucy Calkins credit for this lesson. This is from her reading workshop book Navigating Nonfiction vol 1.



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