Main Idea Seals and Healing Paws

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SWBAT locate the main idea and supporting details in an informational text.

Big Idea

Learning about seals and dogs is quite fun! Entertain the class as they determine the main idea and supporting details.


5 minutes

Common Core Connection and Introoduction

The Common Core standard for this lesson is RI.1.2 and it states that students need to be able to identify the main topic and retell the key details in a text.  But, I always seem to have to add my own twist to everything, so I decided we are going to find the main idea and supporting details.  The main idea seems more complex to me than the main topic. While a topic is very general (one or two words usually), the main idea is more specific and explains about what the passage is telling the reader about the topic (a phrase or whole sentence).

In this lesson I try to choose passages that my students are interested in to encourage the class to read the text closely. Keeping student interests in mind also helps students persevere through complex tasks. I also find that when my students are interested they can read a text with a much higher lexile level. The text I use in the lesson is actually at a much higher lexile than the students read independently, but I like to use challenging text and, when I do, I make sure I am available to help my students decode new words and expand their vocabulary.

The students work in small heterogeneous groups that I have already assigned. They are able to collaborate and help each other learn in this type of setting.  I think this strategy for approaching grouping supports a positive classroom environment.


I like to use technology to engage my students and by projecting the lesson image on the Smart Board. I ask the class to look at the lesson image and discuss what we are going to be learning about today.  I allow one person to share.  Then I add that we are going to learn about how to find the main idea and supporting details in an informational text.  I want the students to see the connection in this and previous lessons, so I remind them of the past lessons that we have done on main idea.

I feel that students need to understand the lesson goal at the outset of the lesson, and one way I like to help my students remember is by asking them to chant the goal, tell a friend, and then repeat it with me.  We say, "I can determine the main idea in informational text."

Guided Practice

20 minutes

I know that my students love animals, and I found this passage Saving The Hawaiian Monk Seal on Read Works.  So, I give the students each a copy of the text, and we echo read it. This means I read each sentence and then the students repeat after me. This is a nice way to go over the passage for the first reading.  I stop and ask the class if they have any questions, and, if they do have questions, they usually ask. I have created a culture where students feel free to stop me anytime to clarify what I mean. They know I expect them to stop me if they don't understand.

I draw a giant hand on the board to serve as our graphic organizer. The fingers are the details and the palm is where I write the main idea.

After we echo read, I go back over the paragraph and ask the students to discuss the big detail from each paragraph. Our main strategy is to look at the title and first sentence in each paragraph. One volunteer shares, students show thumbs up, thumbs down or hang ten to agree or disagree.  This is how I use formative assessment.  I often ask a student to explain why they agree or disagree.  I am creating an opportunity for my students to evaluate others and their own thinking. When the student shares where they found the detail in the text the entire class highlights it in on their copy (Guided Practice Work).

We continue reading one paragraph at a time. After each reading the students talk to their partner about an important detail. Then a volunteer shares their ideas. We highlight the text. Then, I add the comments to the board work. We do this until we have about four details on the board.

I share that we need to determine the main idea. We circle the title and first sentence of the text to remind students that this is one place to find the main idea. Next, I reread all of our details. I also share that our details must connect to the main idea. I tell my students to think of a way to make a statement about what all of the details tell us.  We discuss, share, agree, disagree, and evaluate.  

A volunteer shares, students agree, disagree, evaluate, and I write the big idea on the board (Board Work).

Partner Work

20 minutes

I ask the students to move to the center tables. As they move they chant the lesson goal three times.  This just keeps us focused on the goal and it keeps them from talking when they are walking. I show the student the same graphic organizer (C.028) (Student Template) I used in the previous guided practice.   My students (Collaboration) us a new passage as they practice finding the main idea and supporting details in their small groups.   Each student needs a copy of the text, Healing Paws, so they can use it to find evidence and highlight details. In order to scaffold instruction I echo read the text, because it is very complex and I want to make sure the students do not struggle with the text. Check out my video of Exemplar Student Work.

Student Reflection

5 minutes

This is a time when I like to work on speaking and listening.  I select several students to read their work in front of the class.  I offer academic feedback about what I like and dislike regarding their work. Then I ask students to do the same. I might say, "Do your details connect to the main idea?" or "Does anyone agree or disagree that she train the dog all the time, is the main idea?"

In order to promote the desired behavior I ask my students to sit criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor hand in their laps talking no more.  They say this with me. Then I review the procedures for speaking and listening.


5 minutes

I read the students a short excerpt and ask the students to write the main idea on a post it note.  The notes are placed on the Tweet Board (Tweet Board).  I read a few as the students are placing them on the board.  I then share that we will be doing more work with informational text and the main idea.