What's The Main Idea?

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Students will be able to analyze a piece of non-fiction to identify the main idea and supporting details.

Big Idea

Students dig deep and get real! Students are pushed to locate the main idea of a passage.

Advanced Organizer

7 minutes

Teaching the concepts of main idea, supporting details, and topic sentences is important because they are basic skills needed to tackle and work with much more complex tasks such as developing arguments, analyzing text, and writing.  The students need to be able to read a piece of writing and identify the main idea. 

To first engage the students, I will have them use this time to prepare their spirals with the graphic organizer I am using to take the notes and model the skill.  The students really love working with our Interactive Spiral notebooks and are always engaged with the note taking when we use the templates.  I found the templates at imlovinitblogspot.com.  They are a nominal fee and WELL WORTH IT! 

To begin, I will pass out the two template and have the students glue the passage down first.  Then, I will have the students glue the term template on top of the passage.  Have the students glue ONLY ON the lines directed.  Then, they will cut up the center of the notes and cut out the diamond.  This will create four flaps.  The students will take their notes on the backs of the flaps.  It is interactive and a great use of the notebook.  It also helps to create a study tool for the students to use while reviewing their notes. 

Finally, the students can color code each term.  I like the students to color code because when we are locating the different pieces in the passage, coordinating the colors helps the students understand and make sense of each piece.  I will have the students color the topic-blue, Topic Sentence-green, Main Idea-red, and Supporting Details-Orange. 

I will allow about 10 minutes to complete this step.  Although it may seem like it is time consuming, it really motivates the students to take notes and helps them learn how to organize their notebooks.  I find it more beneficial in the long run!


20 minutes

To begin the instruction, I really want to gain an understanding for what the kids know about the terms and their meanings.  To do this, I will pass out a Term Sort.  I'll give each set of shoulder partners the terms and definitions and have the students work with their shoulder partners to try to match them.  Allowing them to work with the terms may help some students ignite their memory and recall a lot of the information on their own.  This will help to make more connections for them. 

As the students are working with their shoulder partner, I will circulate the room to assess their knowledge.  This will help me understand how in-depth I'll need to go with the instruction and explaining the terms.  I am anticipating most students will know the terms and definitions but struggle with applying it to the passage. 

Once the students have matched what they think is correct, I'll display the correct answers and have them check their work.  I'll have the students record the definitions onto the back flaps of the graphic organizer.  They will write the definition for topic, on the backside of the "topic" flap.  I'll have them do this for the terms topic sentence, main idea, and supporting details. 

Next, it's time to immediately apply the concept to text.  One of the biggest transitions I am feeling with implementing the Common Core Standards is pushing the students to take risks and apply the concept with complex text. 

However, it has proven to be such a benefit for the students to take risks. 

Guided Practice

20 minutes

It is time to model! Modeling is one of my favorite parts of the lesson.  I love to watch the students "get it". 

I'll have the students keep their spirals open to the template and Modeling Passage.  As I am modeling with the text in the power point, I'll have the students copy my markings and notes into their spiral, onto the passage.  I will ask the students to take out their colored pencils as well.  It is helpful to use colors so they can see the placement a specific sentences has in the passage. 

To begin with, I will read the entire passage through once.  The students at this level have not yet mastered comprehending a text if they are also asked to do something with it.  For example, if they need to underline certain details, they will only focus on that task and not comprehend the story as well as they are usually able to comprehend it. 

Once I have read the passage, I will ask the students to identify the topic of this passage.  I will give them a minute to think about it.  This think time is important for all students to have the opportunity to process the question and create an answer.  

Next, I will ask the students to share their thoughts, once we have agreed on the topic and they have identified the topic as Youtube, I will have the students go through the text, with one of their colored pencils and circle the word Youtube, anytime it is mentioned.  This will allow them to see the topic in text.

I want the students to see how the author develops a topic sentence and the role a topic sentence plays in a paragraph.  I will use a different color and ask the students to pick a different color to follow along with me as I underline the topic sentence in the passage.  They will do the same to their paper in their spiral.

Next, I will move to the supporting details.  Again, I will pick another color to use with the passage and go through to underline the supporting details.  Although I am in the modeling phase of the lesson, I do like to involve the students.  I usually use discussion to do this.  I will ask the students how the supporting detail supports the topic.  I will break this up and have them talk with their shoulder partners or group.  I usually feel it out with how they are doing or how much support they will need answering the questions.  Working with the group provides them more support than if they just worked with their shoulder partner. 

Finally, I will ask the students to identify the main idea of the passage.  I will do this last to demonstrate the importance of reading the entire passage before identifying the main idea.  Students, in true student fashion, will rush through it to get the job done. 

This part I will elicit more of the students thinking.  I want them to be able to identify the difference between the main idea and the topic.  What is the author trying to say with the passage?

Once we identify the main idea, I'll have the students draw a callout above the text and record the main idea in that thought bubble. 

Using the model and the template, the students will have a good model and reference to go to when working on the independent activity. 




Independent Practice

25 minutes

The students will now be asked to demonstrate understanding and practice the concept of identifying main idea and supporting details.  I do not expect the students to master this skill as this time, but do want them to take risks and work through the skill. 

You can use any nonfiction passage for them to do this.  You can relate it to whatever novel you are reading or use this opportunity to make connections with other contents.  I chose to use a passage from Time for Kids for this piece. 

I will remind the students to read the passage first, then identify the topic, topic sentence, supporting details, and last the main idea.  Following these steps will help them master this concept because it keeps them focused on the task.

I'll have the students use colored pencils to do the markings so they can see the role each piece has within the passage.  They'll see where the topic sentence is located, how supporting details are used to support the topic and develop the main idea.

Once students have finished, I'll bring the class together and go over their answers.  One way I like to do this is to individually call the students to the board and ask them to explain their answers and thinking.  This gets the students up, engaged, and allows them to take ownership for their work.  A little sense of urgency to get the work done is sometimes all it takes to keep them focused!


7 minutes

It is important for the students to understand why they are learning the material.  This will create a purpose for them and help them make it meaningful.  For today's closure, I want the students to focus on main idea and how to identify a topic sentence.  These two concepts are very important in understanding nonfiction text. 

I will ask the students to complete a Closure Slip.  This will allow me to assess their learning as well as provide them with an opportunity to process the material.  

I am expecting the students to struggle with being able to pinpoint the main idea.  I have a feeling they will just list a supporting detail.