This lesson begins with another pre test. By now my students know about pretesting, but I still go over it with them to make sure they try their best but feel safe enough to take risks and make mistakes. I reassure them that I won't share their results with anyone but them and me and that it doesn't count for a grade. I also remind them that if they "test out" of main idea then they get to work on an above grade level project and if they don't "test out" then I know where to begin teaching them and by the post test, they will understand main idea.
I chose to use a current event article from Time for Kids. You can find the article here. Even though I chose this article, the pre test can be used with any article that has at least three sections.
I hand out the article and the pre test and allow the students to "show what they know"!
After I collect the pre tests and scan through them, I can see that the students already know how to pick out a topic. They don't necessarily know how to state a main idea nor do they know how to put their ideas into a paragraph. Both of these results, I was pretty sure of beforehand. (That's the good thing about experience- kids don't change too much!!) But, there's always that outlier, so they need to be assessed.
I have the students use a marker to write "Main Idea=" at the top of their left side. We discuss what main idea is which the students know right away. They say, "The main idea is what the story is mostly about." I write that into my notebook and have the students copy it into theirs.
I then tell the students that in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade they learn main idea but this year, in 4th grade, they will learn supporting details to go with the main idea. We talk about the word support and I give them and example- table legs. Table legs hold up a table and supporting details hold up the main idea. I have them copy "Supporting Details=" and then have them copy "Sentences that talk about the main idea."
I then pass out the papers with which we will practice. The papers are set up into strips. We do the first strip together and I have them cut the second strip off the page. The students glue the strip into their notebook and I have them fill out the supporting details. I instruct the students to draw a line under their strip and get ready to write a paragraph.
We review topic sentence and the students figure out that the topic sentence is the same as the main idea in this case. So, I copy the sentence from the strip and I have the students help me to craft the rest of the paragraph. I take time to point out transition words and listen to a few ideas for sentences before I decide on the one we'll use. The students copy the paragraph into their notebooks as well.
After we all have the paragraph copied, I instruct the students to choose one of the strips left on their paper and use it as a graphic organizer to write their own paragraph. Students have time to finish their paragraphs before they leave the room. I collect the paragraphs and go through them to get a gauge of students' understanding for main idea and supporting details.