I choose an article about Rachel Carson to model how to identify details that support the main ideas in a text. One article that could be used is Rachel Carson's Biography by, Linda Lear. I start by telling students that there have been amazing scientists in history and they have made major changes in the way we work with the environment. We are going to read about and learn about someone who has made a impact in the health of our environment. In order to really understand what is important information in this article, we are going take notes on the main idea and make sure that we have a detail or two for each main idea. The details should support the main idea by adding more information or explain the idea and it must come from the text, not a response we have to the text.
As the article is read aloud, I take notes on main ideas. First, I think out loud and consider which details support the ideas I wrote down. At one point, I identify a very interesting detail and think out loud about whether or not it is a main idea or a detail. Main ideas can be supported by many details or examples from the text. However, details are usually not support by other pieces of information.
Near the end of the article, I identify a main idea and ask students to listen for details to support the idea. This is a scaffolded release of expectations. Students are called on to share out loud what they have found. I ask the class to verify whether or not they agree and then add those idea to the list.
For the final release of practice, I tell students that there is at least one more main idea and I want them to find it as finish the article. After I have finished reading, I ask them to turn to their partners to share their thoughts as I circulate and listen in on their conversations.
To wrap up the lesson, I share some of the observations I have heard listening to great thinking and conversations and then choose one student to share the main idea and a few other students to share the details that support the idea.
After the modelling, students are sent off to read an article and practice the skill of identifying the main idea and supporting it with details. They record their thinking in their journals using the same method that I used in my modelling.
After students have had an opportunity to read and take notes, I ask them to share and compare with their group members. This sharing allows students to practice explaining their thinking, as well as hearing other examples that may verify their thinking or challenge it. Some students may actually pick up a few important ideas from the texts by listening to their peers explain it.
Once students have shared their ideas and feel comfortable with them, I call on a few students to share with the class. This serves as an informal assessment for me to gauge the understanding of the class as a whole.