Harriet Tubman

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SWBAT identify the main idea and supporting details in a text.

Big Idea

Write, learn about supporting details, and deepen your students knowledge African American history by reading about Harriet Tubman.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection

The focus standard for this lesson is RI1.2 and it requires the students to determine the main topic and supporting details in a text. But, since I really want to challenge my class I have ask them to determine the main idea and supporting details in two different text on the same topic. I do find that students build vocabulary, and content knowledge when they are exposed to several text on the same topic. This is another reason I like to use two text on the same topic.

In addition to RI1.2, I am going to be asking the students questions throughout the lesson to help them determine the supporting details and the main idea. So, I actually am also including RI1.1, which is the standard that includes asking text based question. The students find the evidence to support their ideas in the text. We usually highlight or circle their evidence, so it is easy to identify.

Lesson Overview

The class works on determining the main idea and supporting details in a Read Naturally passage about Harriet Tubman. Read Naturally is an intervention resource that has many leveled informational passages, and there is also a free app that it available.  Then they create their own paragraph including the main idea as the first sentence and three supporting details. We make the main idea the first sentence so the students remember that is where they look to find the main idea.

Throughout the lesson the class works in small groups (Peanut Butter Jelly Partner), and they transition (Transitions) often. I find these management practices to really help my students stay on task.

Introductory Activity

First, I try to connect today's lesson to previous lessons and activate some prior knowledge. I remind the class that we have studied main idea.  I reference a few text and give some examples of things we have done with main idea. I also remind the class the main idea is like a cupcake.  There are things in it and icing on it, but those are just the details.  The big idea is the cupcake.  Creating these connections to things they are already familiar with helps students process and retain the information.

I ask the class to come to the carpet and sit down.  Then I tell them to close their eyes and imagine.  "Imagine not being allowed to play with the kids you wanted to and not having a choice about where you played." This is my attempt to make learning relevant, and get my students to connect personally to Harriet Tubman.  Making a personal connection and making lessons relevant really seem to help me motivate my students to persevere when the rigor increases. Then I ask the class to open their eyes, and I share that we are going to read about a person who lived this life. I feel that it helps to let the class know the specific things they are going to do, so I also share that we are going to find the supporting details and main idea in a text about Harriet Tubman. Then each student is going to write a paragraph using a main idea and three supporting details.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

At first,  I read the text three times to the class, because it gets them familiar with the text.  I ask them to follow along.  After I have read the text three times we go back and pick out any words they did not know.  I have them circle any word that they did not know as I was reading.  They discuss the word with their partner then we share in whole group. This gets them comfortable with the text.

Next, I ask them what the story is about.  Then, I ask the students to circle the title and first sentence, because I am teaching them to evidence the text.  One way to help students find the main idea is by reading the title and first sentence. After I read them aloud, the students talk to their partner about what the main idea might be in the text. In other lessons we have used details to identify the main idea, but it this lesson we are finding the main idea and looking for supporting details. It seems to help my students to use different approaches to locating information and understanding a skill.

So, the students engage in a class discussion about the main idea, and I write their final decision on the board. This really serves as a model in the partner work section, when they are thinking about a main idea.

Then I ask for the students to work with a partner (Talk to Partner Strategy) to find one detail in the text that supports the main idea.  After a class discussion I add it to the board.  We do this to get three details. Each time the class has to give thumbs up or thumbs down to agree or disagree. 

Last, I read the details and ask them to discuss at their tables if they think the details support the main idea. I try to get them talking about why those details connect to the main idea.

Two of the question I use to see if the details connect to the main idea are:

Is that detail related to the main idea?

Would the information be the same without that detail? (This question is key in helping the class determine what details are important."


Partner Work

15 minutes

So, now I am going to try another approach to get the class to understand the main idea. I am going to allow them to be the author. Giving the students a chance to create a paragraph keeping the main idea and supporting details in mind hopefully is going to help them understand the skill.

So, the students are creating a paragraph using the main idea as the first sentence and including three supporting details. Now, I am trying to teach the class the connection between the main idea and the supporting details. I do share that we want this to be an informational paragraph, but really what I am loooking for here is the "main idea" and "three details." This is my approach helping the students understand the text structure and the connection between the supporting details and the main idea.

I find primary students really need models, so I show them my example:

Spiders help farmers in different ways. They keep bugs off of the crops. Spiders are also food for chickens. They also eat unwanted insects around the barns.

They have fifteen minutes to write.  Before they write I remind them of the proper punctuation and capital letters they need to include. But, this is not a lesson on grammar, so the focus is creating. Creating is a higher order thinking skill and students are applying their knowledge of the main idea to write a paragraph. 

I ask questions to get the students thinking as I walk around:

What is going to be your big idea or main idea?

What specific things did they do?

After the fifteen minutes is up, I ask the class to read their work to their partner. The partner is supposed to tell them if they have a main idea and three supporting details. Based on their partners evaluation, students have five minutes to make changes to their work.



Class Reflection

10 minutes

We go to the lounge area and I allow three volunteers to share their work.  This allows them to practice their listening and speaking skills.  I have to remind them of the rules before the presentations. "Sit criss cross apple sauce, hands in your lap, look at the speaker, think about what they are saying, and prepare to give them academic feedback." I like to be proactive in behavior management. 

Allowing them to present is motivating, but it also makes them accountable. It ensures that they put their best effort into what they are doing.  Sharing their ideas is also beneficial to everyone because we can learn so much from our peers.


5 minutes

Since the partner work is really about using their knowledge in the guided practice to create a paragraph with detail that connect to a main idea, I am going to try to quickly assess their understanding. I ask the students to tell their partner one thing they know about the main idea and supporting details. Hopefully they will say there must be a connection, but whatever they say I listen. Then I share what I wanted them to learn. This assessment is very helpful when I begin preparing my future lessons on this skill.

Next, I remind the we learned about the main idea.  I say, "The main idea is the big idea."  Then they echo it.  Next I ask my students to echo, "The main idea must connect to the supporting details, and I find the main idea in the first sentence and the title."  Last I tell them that we will continue to work on this skill.