Inferring the Main Idea: Day Two

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SWBAT infer the main idea in informational text.

Big Idea

Narrow it down to find the gist.

Narrow it Down

15 minutes

Students will start off by reviewing the bubble map they completed while reading the "Polar Vortex" article in part 1 of this lesson.  

Using the bubble map and the article, they will create a list with the 10 most important words from the text.  I will encourage students to work with a partner during this process, but I do always have students that prefer to work alone which is fine as well.  This activity promotes CCSS because it requires students to carefully examine the text and also helps them determine the central idea of the text.  

After coming up with a list of 10 words, I will ask students to narrow their list down to the 5 most important words in the text.  Next, they will come up with the 3 very most important words.  I am not going to let them in on this process ahead of time because I know that my students will skip straight to the top 3, and I really want them to go through the process of deciding which words are most critical.  

Once students have their top 3 words, I will ask them to use these words in a sentence that is about the text.  If students have truly chosen the most important words, they should have a sentence that is something close to a main idea!  I don't tell them this quite yet though! 


Stop: Mini Lesson Time!

10 minutes

On the pretest, I noticed that many of my students chose details as the main idea.  I want to do a quick exercise to demonstrate the difference.  I will give them a list of 4 words, and in their table groups of 3 or 4, they will have to figure out what their relationship is and explain it to me.  For example:  handsome, appearance, well-dressed, and shabby.   

I am hoping that the students will realize that appearance is a overall category under which the other three belong.  Similar to a main idea being the big idea and the details falling under it.  

I have a handout with several examples that we will work on for several minutes.  My idea is to have the students come up with the relationship on their own, so I will keep supplying more word groups until they have it.  I  have these word groups typed up and printed on pieces of paper for easy distribution.  If a group comes up with the correct relationship, I will give them another set of words and ask them to explain again.  

If the relationship is incorrect, I will also have them try another word group to see if it helps make the connection.  

After most groups are starting to figure it out, I will ask some of the students to explain what they discovered, and we will connect this activity to finding the main idea and details. 

Finding the Main Idea

15 minutes

Once every person/group has come up with a sentence, I will have them share with me up on the Smart Board.  

We will eliminate the choices that are too similar and then in their table groups students will decide on the top 2 sentences.

Their criteria will be this: Does the sentence capture the most important  ideas in the article?  Is it specific enough?  

I will go through the sentences that received the most votes and check them according to the criteria along with the students.  If they don't make the cut, we may refer back to other sentences or combine several until we have something that works.  

I would like students to have several sentences that work so that they can choose their favorite.


I will tell them to view this sentence as an umbrella with the details underneath it.  I will also refer back to the mini lesson where we realized that one of the words was a category that the others fell under.    


15 minutes

Now I am going to have students choose one of the sentences from the board.  They will put it as the title of a tree map.  

As a class we will highlight the key words in each sentence.  Then, students will go back through the article and find 3 details that support the sentence.  I will have them use the key words in the sentences as hints as to what type of details to find. 

For example, if the sentence used "below freezing temperatures", then students could look for a detail about a specific temperature or how the freezing temperatures affected people.  

This activity will help students develop the central idea of the text and support it using textual evidence.  

I will be available to support students and to make sure they are choosing details that support the main idea.  

Once students are finished, I they will break away from their groups and work alone to write a paragraph summary that highlights the main idea and key points of the article.  They will use their tree map to help them organize the summary.

Student Summary

Student Summary