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 details, to hold up their supporting ideas. When we teach our students this concept, they are better prepared to justify their topic sentence properly when writing!
This lesson is a double duty one because it teaches writing skills, but it also sends students back to a text to find basis for their writing. In the end, after this lesson, students will be working on building a foundation in both writing and reading.
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.
In order to access background knowledge, students must be prepared for this lesson. Prior to the start of this lesson, students will have been introduced to the idea of topic sentences. After that, students will have been introduced to the idea of supporting ideas as well.
Students will need to have a good grasp of supporting ideas because these details are there to connect to the topic sentence and justify the supporting ideas. In the end, students must truly understand the main idea and the supporting ideas... then they can move on to these supporting details!
During this portion of the lesson, I will make sure to use my reference chart for supporting ideas and details. I will also remind students throughout the lesson that they will be able to refer to our chart as they continue to work on this skill!
"Today, we are going to learn the third step in making our writing wonderful! When we write, we know now that we need to begin with a topic sentence. We also know that 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. But, there has to be a reason why we have those ideas. When we have reasons for why we gave a supporting idea, we call those reasons our supporting details! 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. One of our supporting sentences was, "There are different types of clouds." (wait time) "Now... I have to tell you why I have chosen this as a supporting sentence. I have to tell you how there are different types of clouds. So, I might think about this for a minute." (wait time)
"Hmmm... Right after I said that there are different types of clouds, I could say this, 'There are cirrus, cumulus and stratus clouds. There are other types as well." (wait time) "Do you see how I provided the reason for WHY I said there are different types of clouds?" (wait time) "Now, let me give some supporting details for the other sentence that I wrote, which was, Clouds can be helpful. I have to tell you why clouds can be helpful." (wait time) "Hmmm... well I know that clouds can be helpful because the provide rain for plants- they also provide shade on hot days." (wait time) "So, after my sentence, 'Clouds can be helpful,' I am going to write 'Clouds provide rain for plants and they also provide shade on hot days!" (wait time) "Do you see how my idea there supported my sentence and told you why I chose it?" (wait time)
"That is the point of a supporting detail- it gives the reason why we have chosen a supporting idea!"
"Let's try to come up with one more topic sentence. Let's use our example from yesterday. We said that our topic sentence was, you can see many animals at the zoo. Our supporting ideas were, 'there are grassland animals,' and 'there are also arctic animals.' Now, we have to think of details to give as to why we chose those sentences. Well.... I could say, 'There are grass land animals. There are zebras and elephants. Then, I could say, 'There are also arctic animals. The zoo has penguins and polar bears, too!" (wait time) "Do you see how I tried really hard to support my ideas that I already had?"
"We are going to work on this together now."
(This will not be independent practice, but will be guided, since this is a very precise process.)
This portion of the lesson will be completed in the whole group setting to ensure that my students will really gain understanding. Since supporting details can be a really tough idea for kids to put their minds around, I want to support them as much as possible. With Supporting ideas, I encouraged independent work after our guided practice;however, since this task is even less concrete, I want to allow students the support they need and guide them through creating these supporting details.
"We are going to create our information together today; I know creating supporting details to hold up your sentences can be difficult. Since we have been talking about insects, I would like for us to support our sentences that we came up with yesterday." (wait time) "Right now, our topic sentence states, 'Insects are interesting creatures.' Our supporting sentences are: insects have 3 body parts, and insects can be helpful. Now, we have to tell why!"
"Now, head back to your seats." (Students will get their papers from yesterday's lesson about supporting ideas out and they will also get out their pencils.)
"I want you to go ahead and find your sentence that says, "Insects have three body parts. To support this, I want you to create a sentence that tells me their three body parts now."
(I will give students about two minutes for this. I will ask my beyond-level students to add an adjective or add an extra idea (like antennae or compound eyes) to make their writing better.)
"Now, we need to support our other sentence. Find your sentence, 'Insects can be helpful.'" (wait time) "Tell me HOW insects are helpful now. I might write about how they are helpful to humans OR how they are helpful to each other. If you can, I would like for you to write both. The more details we have to support our sentences, they better our writing will be!"
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.
If students seem to really have a good understanding of this, I will be sure to talk them through the layout of supporting ideas and details.
When looking at supporting details sentences, I just check to see that these sentences indeed do support the main supporting ideas.
If supporting details are not connected well to the main ideas, I know the student does not understand this concept yet. I will pull students who were unable to connect their ideas together well 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 it!
Here is an example of a student who has really taken this lesson to heart and has been able to create a good example of supporting details to hold up the ideas and topic sentence. Here is another example of a students' supporting details in list form, using a graphic organizer.