George Washington and Main Idea

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SWBAT locate the main idea in an informational text.

Big Idea

Engage in American history as student learn about the main idea.


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. This lesson really focuses on finding the key details, and then they connect them to the main idea. Now, RI1.1 is where students are answering questions like: What is the main idea? The lesson also connects to SL1.1 because there is so much peer collaboration, speaking, and listening throughout the lesson.

Lesson Overview

I realized that I need to try to expose my students to some history.  So, I found some text that is highly complex and interesting.  Both text talk about important historical leaders and help my students learn about American history.

We first read about George Washington in the guided practice, and then we learn about Abraham Lincoln in the partner work section. In both section the class is trying to determine the main idea and supporting details. In the student reflection section the class engages in speaking, listening, and evaluation.

The students work in small groups (Peanut Butter Jelly Partner). I have students transition (Transitions) about every twenty minutes to keep their attention. 


A fun way to engage my students is to project an image on the Promethean board that is related to the lesson. 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 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.  I say, I can determine the main idea in informational text.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

Students often need scaffolding when it comes to really complex text. One way I like to help my class is to echo read the passage a couple times.  Echo reading means I read a sentence aloud and then the whole group read it aloud after me. I often stop and ask questions as well to check for understanding, but many students will ask questions when they are unsure. 

In order to engage all of the students in my class I ask everyone to turn and talk to their partner about what they think the main idea might be in the passage. Then I allow one person to share.  I model writing the main idea on the graphic organizer.  I used colored paper that I cut into a circle and folder into four sections. Changing things up and using colorful paper seems to keep the students feeling upbeat.

As I am continuing to support collaboration and engage the entire class I ask students to discuss an important detail from the first paragraph.  There is some major vocabulary in this section so I spend a little time discussing what it means.  After the discussion one volunteer will share their important detail from this section. Before I add it to our graphic organizer, I ask the class to use thumbs up or down to show me if they agree or disagree with the speakers opinion. When students are evaluating their peers they are actually engaging in a higher order thinking activity and Common Core really supports higher order thinking.

My students collaborate using the same procedures to develop two more details that support  the main idea.  I try to get one detail from each paragraph and make sure we have put it in our own words. Students often write exactly what the text says and I try to discourage that, but encourage using the text for evidence. Students need to learn to put thoughts in to their own words.

Partner Work

20 minutes

The students transition to the center tables and as they move I ask them to chant I can identify the main idea. This just keeps their energy up and allows students to refocus on the lesson goal.  First graders often need a transition after about twenty minutes.

I pass out the passage to the groups and immediately explain that we will echo read the text prior to their work. (Check out my video on how I scaffold text complexity (Persevering Through Complex Text).)But, I do explain that they will complete a graphic organizer similar to the one we did together about this text. To scaffold instruction I echo read the text and ask for questions at the end of each paragraph. Even though many first graders are not ready to read a very complex text independently they can be exposed to it with the support of their teacher and other peers.

As groups work on their project I walk around and ask questions. Observing has been very hard for me because I am so hands on, but I am learning to allow my students to persevere through problems and only rush to their rescue when needed.  

Check out my video of Proficient Student Work.

Student Reflection

5 minutes

Allowing the students to share their work is essential when they create a really cool project like the one in this lesson.  As I allow my students to practice their speaking and listening skills they present their work. Everyone always wants to present but due to time constraints I limit the presentations to about three. To accommodate the students that did not get to present I allow them to present during snack or recess if they choose to do so.

Begin proactive has always been helpful to me in getting the results I want so I am careful to go over how to speak with expression, loud, clear, enunciate, and how to listen to a speaker.  Modeling what to do also helps me get the point across in a fun way.  


5 minutes

As I continue to work on speaking and listening students tell their partner one thing they learned about the main idea and supporting details. I hope somebody remember the supporting details must connect to the main idea, or the title and first sentence can help determine the main idea.  I listen carefully so I can share their ideas with the class. Then students are encouraged to add to what I say. This is how I try to create more of a conversation among my students regarding academics.

Students need to be reminded of the lesson goal. I ask the class to restate the lesson goal, tell a friend and say it with me: I can determine the main idea and supporting details.  This is just an engaging way to get the students to establish ownership of the goal.