Reading the Topic, Main Idea, and Details

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SWBAT identify the topic, main idea, and details of an informational text.

Big Idea

In this activity your students will get practice with main idea using a text on their favorite season!


To me, one of the most important aspects of understanding what is being read, is identifying the topic, main idea, and supporting details of a text, RL.1.2.  It also is a difficult task to teach, and for a child to understand.  Through the years I have notice that students with a strong reading background get this concept much faster than students who don’t.  One of the positive aspects of Common Core is that it does give license for teachers, especially in the primary grades, to build a foundation for college and career readiness through reading widely and deeply from a range of literary and informational texts.  Through teacher read a-louds and giving students the opportunities to take ownership of their learning, students will be well on their way of meeting CCRA.R.2: determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Lesson Overview:

Today my students partner read the remaining chapters in Seasons. When they were finished partner reading, they re-read the chapter pertaining to their favorite season and identified the topic, main idea, and details from the text that corresponded to that season.



5 minutes

We began this lesson at their seats where I reminded my students that identifying the topic, main idea, and supporting details helps them to better understand what they are reading.  I also emphasized that the main idea was one or two sentences explaining what the author wants to tell about the topic of the story, and that the title and first sentences gave clues that could help them identify the main idea.

I finished the introduction by explaining they would first partner read the text with their table partner, then they would choose their favorite season and re-read just that part again.  When it came time to fill out their graphic organizers they would only use the part of the text that was the same as their favorite season.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

I then instructed my students to think about the first chapter we read in the text Seasons,.  I gave my students a moment to think and then used the magic cup to select students to share with the class what the title of the chapter, the topic, main ideas, and some of the details were from yesterday’s reading.  As these children related the answers the rest of the class showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down). After congratulating my students on doing a good job sharing what the topic, main idea, and details were, I asked them where they could find clues to help them figure out the main idea.  Before they could answer I had them share with their table partners.  Then I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select a student to share.  My class agreed the clues could be found in the title and first sentence. 

At that point I had my students take out their anthologies and open to Seasons, reminding them that had already read the first chapter, so today they would start with the next chapter entitled It is Winter.  I then instructed my students to turn and face their table partner and gave them directions and expectations to partner reading.  In my class the student who is ‘Helper of the Day’ and all the students who sit on the same side of the desks as that person are ‘Partner One’ and they read first.  Usually my students take turns reading both displayed pages until they are finished.

As my students began reading I circled around and made sure all partners were on the same page and taking turns.  Usually all students finish about the same time, however in the event a pair finishes early I  instruct them to go back and re-read the selection to themselves, write a reflection about what they just read, or look at the pictures.  There is seldom time for them to do more than that.

When my students finished reading I used the magic cup to select three partner pairs to share one detail from the winter, spring, and summer section.  When finished I gave them the directions to their independent work.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

Usually at this time we split into leveled reading groups and my students rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different work areas, one area, at the ‘round table’, is usually devoted to independent work that includes spelling, grammar practice, or comprehension practice; another area is always journal writing.  Today I explained that while they were in their rotations when they went to the round table they would re-read only the section that was the same as their favorite season.  Instead of writing in their journals they were to use the information from the text to identify the topic, main idea, and details for that season.  I felt it would be more meaningful if my students selected their own favorite season to work with because they would take ownership of their work.  

I then displayed the Topic, Main Idea, Detail graphic organizer on the Promethean board and told my students they would fill this out instead of writing in their journals.  As I passed out their copies of the Topic, Main Idea, Supporting Details Graphic Organizer, I explained they would still go through their regular rotation areas; however I would start with the Beginning Reading group.   

I called my beginner readers to work with me first because I noticed that this group was still having difficulty with identifying the main idea.  To help them I used the HM corresponding student practice book page 106, that had a short narrative along with a topic, main idea, detail practice section to go with the narrative.  I reviewed with the group that the title and topic were almost the same, the main idea is usually found in the beginning sentence, and the details make the reading more interesting.  This group took turns reading the narrative sentences to me, after each sentence, I would ask: ‘Does that sound or look like the title, topic, main idea, or a detail?'  As we were working one of my little ones noted that the reading passage was in the same order as the graphic organizer, it started with the title and so did the organizer.  Yes, we were making progress!  At the end of 15 minutes we rotated and this group went through the regular rotation. When they got to their regular journal area they worked on the Topic, Main Idea, Details graphic organizers on their own. 

I checked all students' work for completeness and understanding when they rotated to my reading group.  When finished, I had my students put this graphic organizer in their work folders for tomorrow’s lesson.  The student in Checking student graphic organizer is from my High Reading group.  Notice how I asked her and her group mates where she found the main topic, and they all replied in the first sentence.  The main topic is not an easy concept for students, because they tend to want to retell the entire text.  By helping them focus on the first sentence or two helps them realize the main topic is a short blurb of what the text is about.

The samples from Student Sample: SpringStudent Sample: Summer, and Student Sample: Winter show the work from a Beginning, Middle, and High Reader. Not only is there a difference in the details noted, there is a marked difference in print and spelling as the students gain proficiency.  

A little side note, my student Helper of the Day does the video taping.  It may be shaky but it is a big honor for my students and motivator to be on their best behavior.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

Today I did the Ticket Out the Door only with my students from the Beginning Reading group.  I did this with only this group because they were still having difficulty with identifying the topic and main idea. 

For a sticker the students needed to tell me how they could use the title to identify the topic, and how they could use the first sentence in the text to help identify the main idea.