Common Core Connection:
Independent reading begins once students are able to decode and blend letters to sound out words. As students continue to master this first step and begin to develop fluency, another important element of reading is teaching students to comprehend what they read. At the forefront of teaching comprehension of informational text is helping students to determine the topic, main idea, and supporting details of a text. According to CCRA.R.2, by the time students complete high school, they should be able to: determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development, summarize the key supporting details and ideas. That is a lofty requirement; however, by chunking this down throughout the grades, it becomes much more manageable for both students and teachers. In First Grade, and for this lesson, I will focus on using a rich, but appropriate text paired with a graphic organizer to help students begin to understand how to identify the main topic and retell key details of a text in order to give my students the foundation they will need to meet the rigorous requirement of CCRA.R.2.
Counting on the Woods, by George Ella Lyon, is a rich and diverse book that can be used for several topics. In this case I used it to introduce the concept of Topic, Main Idea, and Details of a story.
Counting on the Woods is usually the first non-fiction text my students have been introduced to. Before I began the actual lesson I first showed the front cover and read the title of the big book, I explained the terms woods and forest mean about the same thing. I continued to show the pictures in the text, without say anything - I want the focus on the book, not me.
When I was finished, I asked my students what they thought this story was going to be about. They agreed it was going to be about the woods. I then asked them: “From the pictures in the book, what can you tell me about the ‘woods’”? One of my students volunteered; ‘There are a lot of plants and animals in the woods’. My students showed me they agreed by showing me a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down). With that I Introduced the Lesson by telling my students today we would learn about the topic, main idea, and details of this story, and that these were important things to know to help them be stronger, faster readers.
This was a very new concept for my students; I explained that the topic was one or two words that told what the story what was going to be about. As I read the title, Counting on the Woods, I said: ‘Listen to the title and tell me what you think the topic of this story is about’. Nearly all called out, “The woods” some said “The forest”. ‘You’re right; the topic of this story is the woods’, I agreed, pointing out that the topic was very similar to the title.
I then said the next important part is called the main or big idea. Explaining the main idea is the important idea the story is about, and that the title and first sentences gives them a clue. Emphasizing it is not the entire story, just a sentence or two of what the story is about. As I began to read, I instructed my students to listen carefully to what types of things were in the woods I was reading about. When I finished reading I gave them a minute to think about what I read about the woods and to share with their table partners. Using the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) I selected a student to share with the class what I read about the woods. I was not surprised when he started to retell the story from the beginning. I agreed that was what happened, but not quite the main idea. To help my students I asked: “Did I read about plants, did I read about animals; are there a lot of things to see in the woods?” With each “yes” my students called out I could see several were starting to make the connection, as hands shot up. I posed the question: ‘What was the main idea about this story’? Using the magic cup to select a student, this time she was able to answer the main idea was there are a lot of plants and animals in the forest. I acknowledged she was correct, emphasizing again the main idea is one or two sentences about what the story is about. The next part, I told my students, was easy. It was the details that supported the main idea.
To lead my students I recounted what we learned about the topic being related to the title, in this case the woods. The main idea being one or two sentences about the story, in this case animals and plants live in the woods. And then I asked them, "what details support the main idea in this story that many plants and animals live in the woods?" I called on hands and my students noted the animals and plants mentioned in the story. When they finished I introduced the Topic, Main Idea, Supporting Detail Graphic Organizer on the Promethean board.
I then passed out their copies of the Topic, Main Idea, Supporting Details Graphic Organizer. Again, because this was a new concept and new graphic organizer for my students, we filled this out together. Using Counting on the Woods as our guide, I used the magic cup to call on students to answer each part as I modeled the Whole Group Activity on the Promethean board how to fill it in as they did theirs.
Once we finished this activity I pointed out that using the graphic organizer helped to see not just the title, but the topic, which again I pointed out was similar to the title. The main idea was not the entire story, but a sentence or two about what we read about. And the supporting details were one or two words that listed the animals and plants in this story.
I realize that part of Common Core is letting students come to conclusions on their own; however, because this was a new concept with new information, I did not want any misconceptions or information brought forward by my students. I did this because I have found when first graders are learning something new and someone gives wrong or misinformation, the students will remember the wrong information. Teaching Common Core in first grade is a constant balancing act of how much to let go and how much to lead!
At this time we went into our leveled differentiated reading groups where my students rotate every 15 to 20 through different work areas. One area in this rotation is individual journal writing, I include journal writing during this time to help my students remember, understand, and apply the information I am trying to convey in the lesson. I usually check all my students journals when they rotate to my reading group.
The prompt I put on the board: The title is ____. The topic ___. The main idea ___. Some details ___.
For a sticker my students needed to tell me the difference between the topic and the main idea.