Points of Literature-Main Idea and Details

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SWBAT identify the main topic of a text and of specific sections within the text by using the organization of the story elements.

Big Idea

Points on a Map-Use Story Elements to help us


  • Tulip Sees America**  Cynthia Rylant & Lisa Desimini 
  • 'Points of Literature' worksheet
  • Pointer
  • 'Points of Literature' powerpoint
  • Blank paper and crayons/colored pencils for each student
  • Text Feature Headers for Literature
  • Map of the US
  • Set up whiteboard with ‘Points of Literature’ organizer 
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: main idea, key details, literature, summarizing, illustration


This lesson is a follow up to another lesson, Points of Informational Text, that I taught about story structure in informational text. I used the same organizer for a timeline and I wanted students to see that information can be organized similarly across many books. I also wanted to give them more practice with determining main idea and supporting details, which is very clear in this book because of the limited text and concrete subject matter.

**I chose this book because it's a mix of literature and informational text ideas. The topic of geography should be common knowledge for students. We are getting ready to talk about Westward Expansion in Social Studies and I want the students to see and hear some of the names of states.  Reading cross-curricular materials (geography) helps my students bridge their learning across the school day and gain an exposure to Geography material in the genre of Literature.

**I will warn you that there is a picture and text of the character running naked through the desert. I used the book and read the page and moved on.  The kids giggled, but since I didn't make a big deal out of it, they didn't either.

Let's Get Excited!

10 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)


Bring students to a common starting point

  • “Today we are going to read about a girl who is going on a trip to places in America.”  If you could go on a trip, where would you go?” This is literature, a story about a girl who travels across America."
  • “Let’s look at these pictures and give me some states to 'point' to that look interesting.  Has anyone gone to any other states?”  Take ideas - encourage students to share what they liked about the state. 
  • Use the pointer - the idea of 'pointing' is the focus of the lesson
  • Show powerpoint to bring students to a similar starting point. States have different landscapes. Students have different ideas where they would want to go.  Here's a short video of the students sharing their thoughts.

Teachers' Turn

20 minutes

Explain the task

  • "Today we are going to read a book called, Tulip Sees America.  She starts her trip in one state and then moves onto other states." 
  • “As we read this story, we are going to ‘point’ to the kinds of structure in the story.”  
  • “Here are the story elements we’ve talked about: characters, setting, problem, action and solution.” I referenced the headers to remind kids what they represent.
  • “There is another way that stories can be organized to help the reader understand the text. The author has placed used a pattern to show the illustrations and text.  That is what we will point to today.””


Discuss the organization of the story

  • “I’m going to read a few pages and I want you to see if you recognize the structure.”  (Stop after the ‘Nebraska pages’).  Prompt for: 4 pages for each state; states go west across America.
  • “What did you notice? Is there a pattern we can see in the story structure? What is the main idea and details? (The goal is for students to understand the good details make a main idea more clear and help us connect to it.)


Model how to find main idea and details

  • “I’m going to show the structure on my ‘points of literature’ organizer. The main idea goes on the top above the arrow. Then the details that support that idea go below the arrows.” Here's an example of the whiteboard at the beginning.
  • "The first place she went to was Iowa. Let me read those pages again...What's the main idea? I'll write that 'There's no place like Iowa."
  • "Now what are the supporting ideas?  Take ideas.  Yes, Iowa has rolling hills and is foggy."  Write that one the board.
  • "Now that I've finished telling about the main idea on the first state, you can continue the next few pages."
  • For a few students who were struggling, I continued on to demonstrate 2 states.  This is an example of how I completed more on the whiteboard.


As students look at the story structure of this piece of literature, they are evaluating the story as a whole and way the parts relate to each other. (RL.2.5) The shift in Common Core ELA standards is toward presenting students with strategies to see how text is organized and recognize structure and patterns within the text. Ultimately, students who can determine the structure of a story, will be better able to predict, connect, and summarize.

Students Take A Turn

10 minutes

Explain the task

  • “Now it’s your turn to write a main idea an supporting details for other states.
  • "Listen to the rest of the story again and choose states that interests you.
  • "Listen for the main idea and the supporting details and put them on your organizer.”
  • Finish the book give students time to fill out the rest of the organizer.
  • Here is a completed student worksheet.
  • Some of my kids were bothered by the open space, so they added lines.


Reflect and share

  • "I see lots of great supporting details and I see some different ideas. Books often have several supporting ideas for a main point. That's the evidence that makes the main point stronger. Keep this in mind when you are writing a story.  If you make a main point, you should include several supporting ideas that give evidence to the main idea."
  • “Who wants to share your ideas?"  Take volunteers and prompt them with questions.
  • This is a students' thoughts on organizing the worksheet.
  • "What was the main idea?" 
  • "What details supported that idea?"
  • "How do these details help us understand?”

Apply What You've Learned!

20 minutes

Explain the task

  • “Now that we have a pattern of main ideas and supporting details and a pattern on the map, you can continue a pattern for a state that you choose.”  Pass out the blank pieces of paper.
  • “You’ll need to choose a state. Think about the structure of the story. The states moves W to E so you’ll have to pick a state along the path."  Refer to the map.
  • "The states are all introduced with the words..."The ..... in .....(state name)."
  • "Think about what makes your state special. Use descriptive language like they did in the book."
  • “Make an illustration for your state.”  
  • Here's one of my completed student's projects.


Share your work

  • Invite students to share their state ideas.  
  • This is a video of student reflecting about her project.


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

For students with academic challenges, this lesson should be easier because I am reading to the group. A large class map will be more helpful and perhaps, post-its, to make a bigger visual would be helpful.  They may need a ‘buddy’ to help with the worksheet.  For the state page that they make, perhaps some ideas on a desk whiteboard would help them. This is an explanation from one of my students with hearing challenges.

This is a great lesson for students with more academic ability. The geography lesson embedded in this lesson is applicable for any level of students. Challenge them to use higher level vocabulary from them (Iowa is agricultural vs Iowa has corn) as well as deeper supports to the main idea (Nebraska)