It is our job to teach our students how to write well; after all, we don't really enjoy reading random writing jobs anyway! So, when we begin really teaching our students HOW to write about informational text, we need to teach them how to find their supporting ideas. When we teach our students this concept, they are better prepared to support their topic sentence properly when writing!
This lesson is another two-fold lesson; it supports reading and writing and shows students how they are interconnected! Yes, the main point of this lesson is to have students write their own supporting ideas; however, they need to realize that they are going back to a text to find these ideas. Since students are getting their information from a text, they are building their reading skills while also connecting them to writing! In the end, this lesson really builds students' skills on top of each other!
This is a whole group lesson, so all of my students are seated on the carpet in front of me. It is our writing block, and I will be introducing a new idea. However, before this lesson can be taught, it is crucial that students have some background knowledge. Prior to this lesson, students will have been introduced to the idea of topic sentences. Students need to have a decent grasp of topic sentences because these supporting sentences build off of that. Supporting sentences are created to connect and back up a topic sentence; therefore, students must know what those sentences are in order to create these sentences with success! This is an important interconnection to teach because topics need supporting ideas and details!
"Today, we are going to learn the second step in making our writing wonderful! When we write, we know now that we need to begin with a topic sentence. However, our topic sentence cannot just float up there alone at the top of our paper; it need support! In order to support our topic sentence, we need to come up with some supporting ideas. These ideas connect to the topic sentence and help make that topic make sense! Let me give you an example!"
"Let's go back to our example from yesterday, from when we learned about clouds. So far, our topic sentence says, I have learned a lot about clouds." (wait time) "Hmmm... I need to know what I could say to support that statement... that means I need to provide a little information about why I said that..." (think time) "I think I could say some of the things I have learned about clouds- that would support the topic, 'I have learned a lot about clouds.' So, my supporting sentences could be: "There are different types of clouds," and "Clouds can be helpful." (wait time)
"I chose those two sentences because those are two things that I know I learned about clouds!" (wait time) "Do you see how those two sentences supported the topic sentence?
"Let's come up with another example. My topic sentence could be: There are many different bodies of water." (wait time) "Hmmm... what could I say to support that?" (wait time) "I think maybe I should list the different types of bodies of water as my supporting ideas." (wait time) "I could say, There are oceans. Another type of body of water is a lake. Streams are a third body of water. Rivers are another type of body of water." (wait time) "Did you hear how those sentences supported the topic sentence? Please share your thoughts with a friend."
"Let's try to come up with one more topic sentence. Let's use our example from yesterday. We said that our topic sentence could be, you can see many animals at the zoo." (wait time) "I think it might be helpful to say why you can see many animals at the zoo." (wait time) "I think I might like to list the categories of animals. Think about this and share with a partner."
I will allow students about 30 seconds to talk. I will then call on someone I am confident can name a category of animals. "Good, I love how, _______ said that we could find grassland animals. So, let's turn that into a supporting sentence." (wait time) "There are grassland animals." (wait time) "Hmmm... and here's another one. There are also arctic animals." (wait time) Yes, we did a good job connecting our two supporting sentences to our topic sentence!"
"Now, I would like for you to go show me what you know!"
At this point, I will remind students to refer to our reference chart for supporting ideas and details. I will have used this to teach this lesson and I will also encourage students to look at the chart if they need guidance.
"I am going to give you some of the information to help you out; I know creating supporting sentences can be hard. But, since we have been talking about insects, I would like for you to create for me some supporting sentences to hold up our topic sentence: Insects are interesting creatures." (wait time) "So, basically, you are going to give me two very big and broad reasons to let me know why insects are interesting." (wait time) "For example, I might say, Insects are interesting creature. Insects have 3 body parts!" (wait time) "I chose that sentence because it connects- I think that one way insects are interesting is because they have 3 body parts! See what I did?"
"Now, head back to your seats." (I will pass out lined paper and students will get their pencils.)
"I want you to go ahead and write under your topic sentence. Tell me two supporting sentences. I want you to tell me why you think that insects are interesting creatures!"
As students write, I will go around and monitor and adjust. I would say that at least half of the time, I have to provide students with prompts to engage them in thinking, so they will find another supporting sentence. I am fine to do that, as long as students, themselves, make the connection between their main topic and their supporting ideas.
When looking at supporting ideas sentences, I just check to see that these sentences indeed do support the main topic sentence.
If supporting idea sentences are not really connected well to the topic sentence, I know the student does not understand the idea yet. I will pull students who were unable to connect their ideas to their topic sentence and we will go through some re-teaching steps.
Sometimes, it takes teaching this concept three or four times, even in the introductory form, for students to truly grasp the idea!