Using Topic, Main Idea, and Details to Write

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SWBAT identify the topic, main idea and supporting details of a text and fill out a graphic organizer, which they will use to write a text summary.

Big Idea

Graphic Organizers are the tools that help students understand and summarize a text.


Students gain knowledge and build a foundation in the fields of history/social studies, and science by reading extensively.  To help them become better readers in these content areas students need to be able to determine the central ideas or themes of a text, analyze their development, and summarize the key supporting details and ideas, as noted in CCRA.R.2.  To do this students need to have access to informational texts that are not only grade appropriate, but interesting to the student.  In this lesson my students will continue working with RL.1.2: identify the main topic and retell key details of a text, as well as use this information to write a short summary of what they read. 

Lesson Overview:

Today we are continuing our work with identifying the topic, main idea, and details in a text and using that information to write a short summary.  I only had my students read one section of the selected reading so as not to overwhelm them with a new concept and to give them practice using the graphic organizer as a writing tool.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 3: Seasons, by Michael Medearis
  • If you do not use Houghton Mifflin try: The Four Season Series: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, by Nuria Roca
  • Topic, Main Idea, Supporting Details Graphic Organizer
  • 10 Pre-cut 2 x 5 strips of paper
  • Markers


10 minutes

To continue our lesson on identifying the topic, main idea, and supporting details I began this lesson by reminding my students we read for leisure and information and that by identifying the topic, main idea, and the supporting details help us be better faster readers.  Holding up a copy of Counting on the Woods, which we read in yesterday's lesson, I instructed my students to think about what the topic of this story was, and gave them time to think about it and whisper their answers in their hands.  I then used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select a student to answer the question.  We did this for the main idea and details as well.

When I was satisfied they remembered what the topic, main idea, and supporting details were I introduced Seasons and told them today they would practice identifying the topic, main idea, and details again and use that information to write a summary about what they read.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

I then had them stand up and move to their desks pretending to be large trees in a forest.  I have found that adding movements to transition motivate my students by peaking their interest in the activity we are working on.  Once settled at their desks I had them take out their anthologies and open to Seasons.

Whenever we read a story for the first time from our anthology I always give my students a moment to look at the title page and pictures in the story.  When they finish looking at the pictures I give them a moment to share with their table partner what they think the story/text will be about.  (Both of these activities help familiarize students to the actual reading).  After my students finished sharing with their partners, I used the magic cup to select a partner pair to share with the class what they thought this story was going to be about.  After we read the story practice sentences at the beginning of the text selection, I said, “Now who is ready for a reading adventure?”  They all were. 

I told my students we were only going to read the first part, or chapter, of the story Seasons entitled, It is Fall, and stop on page 20.  After we finished reading page 20, I was going to ask them what the topic, main idea, and details were, so I reminded them about the ways we learned we can find the main idea from yesterday's lesson:

  • Look at the title and the first sentences of paragraphs for clues
  • Think about the topic and the main thing that the author is trying to say about the topic
  • Check your thinking with your partner

Then I told them that they were going to create a class chart.  At the same time they were going to practice making their own chart, similar to what we did yesterday.  I used the magic cup to select a student to retell the class what we were going to do.

After reading the title together I sent students to read to p. 20.

Collaborative Activity

15 minutes

When finished I gave my students a moment to think about what we just read, emphasizing to think about the topic, main idea, and supporting details.  I then showed the Topic, Main Idea, Details graphic organizer on the Promethean board and passed out their copies of the Topic, Main Idea, Supporting Details Graphic Organizer.  As I passed out the student copies I told my students they were to work with their table partner to fill out the graphic organizer, reminding them to only use the information from the section they just read It is Fall.

As my students began working I circled around each desk to monitor their work.  I noticed the main idea gave my students a little problem.  I reminded my students about the strategies we reviewed in the Guided Practice again.  I then pulled a small group to work with me.  The student in Using the Graphic Organizer is from my Beginning Reading group, who worked with his table partner to finish.

When just about all my students were finished (Finished Work) I used the magic cup to select partner pairs to tell the class what they wrote in each section of their Topic, Main Idea, Details graphic organizer.  As the selected students gave their answers (Student Answers) I handed them a 2 x 5 strip of paper and a marker to write their answer on.  Then I taped the strip in the section it belonged on the displayed Topic, Main Idea, Details graphic organizer on the Promethean board.  (Blue painter’s tape works well)  As each section was filled in I instructed my students to check their work to make sure they had their organizers filled in correctly.

I asked my students if they thought they could write a little paragraph, explaining this was called a summary, about the season fall using the words on their organizer.  Nearly all of them agreed they could.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

At this time we went into our reading rotation block where my students are in leveled reading groups and rotate through ELA activities every 15 to 20 minutes.  One of the rotation areas is journal writing.  Independent journal writing is an important part of student development and teacher observation.  Through journal writing I can monitor my student's understanding of and applying new information to create a written piece.

I then showed the prompt, In the fall _________, on the Promethean board and instructed my students to use only the words on their graphic organizers to write a little paragraph, or summary, telling about fall with two or three details (Journal Sample).  To help my students get started, I reminded them of yesterdays prompt and told them this journal would be almost the same.  I checked for understanding and completeness (Student Reading Journal Sample) when each group rotated to my independent differentiated reading group.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

To earn a sticker my students my students explained how they could tell what the main idea is from a text.