Points of Informational Text-Main Idea and Details

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SWBAT identify the main topic of a multi-paragraph text and specific paragraphs within the text.

Big Idea

What’s the main point of the text and how do other parts of text ‘point’ to it?


  • Explorers of North America-A True Book Brendan January   You could use another historical series, but make sure it has short chapters, good text features and clear illustrations
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall:key details, main idea, informational text, summarizing, header, timeline, text features, caption, quote... (see what's in your book)
  • Informational Text Feature Headers (cut apart)
  • Set up whiteboard with the worksheet 
  • 'Points of Informational Text' worksheet
  • Large light colored bulletin board paper-3 feet long   Cut it horizontally so its about 2 feet high and roll it up before the lesson starts
  • pointer- we will talking about 'points' so I wanted to have a visual
  • Sample timelines from books in your room, Social Studies texts, etc, just to show students what a timeline looks like


I like this series because each paragraph is about a different explorer, which helps the kids organize the ideas. It also has nice sections with clear headings that we used for main idea, as well as nice examples of informational text headers.

Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Get students engaged

  • Hold the long timeline paper rolled up
  • "Today we are going to create a class project.  We are going to make a timeline to show the exploration of North America. The timeline will have a main idea and key details that support it. 
  • Roll out the long paper across the whiteboard or across the floor to pull in students' attention.  See the demonstration of 'get excited activity'- you can hear the kids' excitement!)

Bring in background knowledge

  • "Do you remember the timelines that we used in social studies?  What about the timelines in this biography book?  What do we use timelines for? What are some events that we have been talking about in history regarding exploration of North America?"  
  • Show some examples of books for history, show dates, in a biography....


Teacher's Turn

20 minutes

Explain organization of the informational text

  • "History books are informational text that are organized by time. This can be shown on a timeline". Refer to timeline
  • "There are main points and the supporting points or key details.  The main points are the 'big idea' of what is happening. The supporting points help to show how the big idea makes sense."
  • Give some examples relevant to their life  - kindergarten I learned, first grade I learned….


Take the time to reinforce the organization and use of text features. Students often read without looking at the ‘header’ and structure of the sections. Knowing and using these text features aids in 'close reading', a shift in the Common Core standards toward reading with a purpose. (RI.2.5)

Reinforce to students that information is organized in the text by chapter, section, paragraph and sentences. As they identify the main topic of the whole text as well as the focus of specific parts, (RI.2.2) they will be able to comprehend better and find key details more easily.


Discuss the informational text organization

  • The headings in a book are the main idea.  They would go above the arrow on my organizer.
  • Paragraphs and sentences have key details that point to/support the main idea.


Preview the first chapter and read

  • Model how to preview a chapter–look at length, comment on the text features, such as maps, pictures, and  captions
  • Review the organization - sentence & paragraph with key details/section with a heading with main idea
  • Use the visuals for informational text features "This quote says"… "I see an illustration of"….
  • Fill out the organizer on the board - see my whiteboard demonstration
  • Complete all of the main and supporting points  - see completed whiteboard for chapter 1


Demonstrate project

  • Cut a 2’ section of the long paper for your timeline piece. 
  • Draw a line and copy your information on your section of the large paper timeline –
  • Review how the parts of text (header, section, paragraph, sentences) support each other.

Students Take A Turn

20 minutes

Set up groups

  • Discuss the rules for group work. Here's the group rules poster that my students created at the beginning of the year 


Assign task to students

  • Each group will find the main idea and key details for a chapter. 
  • When we put together all the main ideas on a timeline, we will create a summary for the whole book. 
  • Remind students to preview the text and look at the text features for information. 


Student read and complete the organizer

  • Have students read the chapter in groups and to fill out the organizer  Here's an example of one of my student who is student using text 
  • Students raise their hands - Do a formative assessment - ask them about them about how the chapter is organized... does the header tell you about what you are reading?
  • Here are 2 examples of my students'  work - student worksheet 1 and student worksheet 2

Make sure students read and verify ideas from the text. They should be able to point out a map, words or other text features to show where they got the answer. This is a video of one of my students explaining how she got the information.

Prep for project

  • While students are working cut the long paper into 4 strips - one for each group.

Apply What You Know

15 minutes

Students work on the project


Model sharing the timeline


Students share

  • You can gauge student understanding by listening to students’ reflections.  “I was surprised that they looked for gold”  
  • Make comments on the kinds of reflections that the students made. 
  • Tape all the sections together to create a giant timeline.  We put ours up in class - the kids loved it!