Finding the Main Idea Again

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SWBAT pick out details that support their chosen main idea of a short passage.

Big Idea

When things just don't quite go right, try again with a lesson that provides lots of support for students' success!

Unit Introduction

The lessons housed within this unit all provide practice on specific skills or strategies. Some lessons were written to see what students remember and/or can do at the beginning of the year. Others were used to re-teach groups of students who hadn’t quite mastered the chosen skill when it was first introduced. Still others were designed to give students meaningful practice while I conducted required testing.

All lessons used texts that were familiar or easily decodable so that students’ energies were spent on skill practice rather than trying to just make sense of the text itself. Many lessons include reproducibles that were made with graphics from Kevin and Amanda’s FontsTeaching in a Small Town, and Melonheadz Illustrating.

Setting a Purpose


When I first introduced main idea to my whole group, many students quickly caught on, but others did not. I decided to re-teach the lesson to a small group of students the next day. I re-used a passage from Evan-Moor’s Daily Reading Comprehension book about Hares and Rabbits that I thought would work well with my lower readers and in a short time period. During the previous meeting with this group, we had read the passage to work on compare and contrast. I wanted to work with a piece they were already familiar with so that they weren’t trying to construct meaning and try to master a skill at the same time.

Small Group Work

25 minutes

During our last small group meeting, students focused on comparing and contrasting hares and rabbits using proof from the passage. Students underlined details in green that showed how they were alike and details in red that showed how they were different. This was helpful for students when determining details that supported the main idea. In my whole group lesson, this is where they really struggled. It seemed like they could tell me in their own words what the passage was mainly about, but when asked to find details that supported that idea, they were lost. They would often pick out simple statements or attention grabbers that weren’t important to the text let alone a detail that supported the main idea.

We started this lesson by re-reading the piece. It was only three short paragraphs and went by quickly. I asked students to tell me, in their own words, the main idea. Most of them told me that the passage was telling us how rabbits and hares are alike and how they are different. I had them write their sentence on their white boards and then underline “how rabbits and hares are alike and how they are different.” I reminded students that in order to find details that support this main idea, we can only look for sentences that show how the animals are alike or how they are different. Having those sentences already marked with colors made the process so much easier! I had two students find one sentence each that told me how they were alike. Then, I pointed them to our compare and contrast chart and had them pick out a comparing term. They chose "both". We then worked as a group to combine the two sentences selected with the comparing term, “both.” We wrote this sentence on our boards. Next, we repeated the process, but two students found sentences that showed differences and chose a contrasting term from the chart. We again worked together to combine the sentences and term into one supporting detail. For our third detail, I had students look at the amount of green and the amount of red on their page. We decided that there were more green sentences, or comparing details, than red. So I had students work with one person beside them to repeat the process and come up with a comparing detail. After a few minutes, students shared their ideas and we read our completed main idea and details paragraph together.

Overall, this process was much less painful and so much more productive than when we worked on this skill as a whole group.

Oh the powers of pre-reading and pre-loading!!