Main Idea in the Desert

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SWBAT identify the main idea and supporting details using an informational text.

Big Idea

Create a lasting image of the desert with a cool video, build students knowledge related to deserts, and teach about the main idea and supporting details.


10 minutes

Common Core Connection

The Common Core Standard RI1.2 state that the reader needs to be able to identify the main topic in an informational text and locate the key details.  The hard part about this standard is that students struggle sorting out what is important and not in a text. Likewise, students have a hard time connecting the specific details to the main idea.  In addition, the main idea is often too broad or too specific.

Lesson Overview

 So, I choose to focus on the main idea, because I want to increase the rigor in this lesson. The standard is really about finding the main topic, which is a one or two word answer. I feel like my students need to dig deeper and identify the main idea.

This lesson provides an opportunity for the learner to determine the main idea and supporting details with teachers support and independent practice. Both text are on the same topic, but the text complexity is at a 300 Lexile for independent and partner work.  The guided practice is at a 500 Lexile, which means I will have to read it to them.  Common Core promotes complex text and its a good idea to use a higher Lexile when doing a read aloud.  It makes the lesson more rigourous.

Introductory Activity 

I like to use pictures and visualization to get them exicted about the desert.  My favorite desert scene is in the Black Stallion when the little boy is on the beach alone with the horse.  We are a horse loving class so I show them a small clip of that scene.  I explain, "We are going to read about a desert and that is where the little boy is stranded. Then we are going to determine the main idea of a text and the supporting details."




Guided Practice

20 minutes

I read the passage about Deserts from Read Works. In order to help the students develop a deep understanding I read the passage three times. Everyone also gets a copy so they can reference the text and practice tracking. 

Then, I ask the students to talk to their partner about any details they think are important.  I call on a volunteer. We repeat this process until we get three details. I ask, "What really seems important? Is there any information that really sticks our to you?" I write the details they identified on the board, so I can point them out as we prepare to discuss the main idea.

I remind the class that to locate the main idea it is helpful to read the title and first sentence of the text. So, I read it and ask the students to circle or underline the text. Then the students discuss what the main idea might be based on the three supporting details, the title, and the first sentence. Next, I ask for another volunteer to share their thoughts.  Last, I reread the details and ask the students to show thumbs up or down if they agree or disagree with our main idea and supporting details. Thumbs up and thumbs down is a quick formative assessment that shows me who really understands what we are doing.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

I give each child the passage Cool in the Hot Desert and I read it to them three times to familiarize the students with the text. I remind the class that the title and first sentence are helpful in determining the main idea and it might be a good idea to circle them. I am scaffolding my instruction, but also making it where my students are successful and not frustrated.

I share that each group is going to to write on the graphic organizer (Main Idea and Central Message Graphic Organizer) three details and a main idea based on this text.  Common Core promotes collaboration and building on peer work. Partner work creates an environment where everyone can be successful and we help each other. It also provides an opportunity for learners to evaluate others ideas which is a higher order thinking skill.

Student Reflection

10 minutes

The student line up. One row is the presenter and the other is the listner.  We then rotate so everyone gets to hear the presentation and everyone gets to present.  This is a great opportunity for them to practice their speaking and listening skills in a risk free environment. They are not on the spot and they only have to talk to one other person at a time.

I have a nice example of a student reading (Student Reading Work) her work to me because she is so proud of what she has created. This student asked to read her work after the activity, so I allow her to do so, because I want to encourage her and keep her motivated.


5 minutes

This is when I try to use some type of formative assessment to see what my students have learned and what I need to focus on next. So, I ask the students to tell their partner one way to locate the main idea. Then I listen. Hopefully, somebody will say they look at the title or first sentence in the paragraph. But, I share their thoughts and what I wanted to them to remember as their strategy to find the main idea.

Last, we chant the lesson goal three times to reiterate the focus of the lesson: I can determine the main idea and supporting details.