EL Support Lesson

Differentiating Main Ideas from Details

Use this lesson to help your ELs understand main idea and supporting details in the context of sentences and paragraphs. It can be a stand-alone lesson or a support lesson to the Power Reading lesson.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Power Reading lesson plan.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

Which set of standards are you looking for?

This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Power Reading lesson plan.

Students will be able to differentiate between the main idea and supporting details with evidence from the text.


Students will be able to differentiate between main ideas and supporting details with new vocabulary using graphic organizers.

(5 minutes)
  • Gauge students’ background knowledge by distributing the index card sets to each group of four students and asking them to sort the index cards into two categories: main idea and supporting details. Ask one group to share their responses and justify their choices. Have the other students agree or disagree with the group's answers by putting their thumbs up or down.
  • Choose a student to read the language objective and define main idea and supporting details. Ask the student to reference the main idea index cards in the definitions. Provide corrections in the definition as necessary. Note student understanding of the words as you may need to rephrase the definitions throughout the lesson for added support.
  • Tell students they will analyze word, sentence, and paragraph structures to help them identify main ideas and supporting details in a text.
(8 minutes)
  • Explain that words can have more than one meaning. List the key words on the board and ask a student to read them aloud. Distribute sticky notes and have students brainstorm in partners the word meanings of three words of their choice. Tell them to write down all the words they do not know on a different sticky note.
  • Display the Glossary worksheet and read the meanings of each of the words to the class. Allow students to share aloud if they choose the correct meanings with their partners.
  • Display the Multiple Meaning Table worksheet and model writing a word, looking up additional meanings in the glossary, and completing the rest of the table for each word.
  • Conduct an "information gap" activity where students are paired together to share their glossary information to complete the Multiple Meaning Table worksheet. Cut the glossaries in half and distribute one half to partner A and another half to partner B. Tell students they’ll have only half of the completed glossary so they'll have to share information from their glossaries with their partner to complete the Multiple Meaning Table worksheet.
  • Allow students to use an online dictionary to verify their answers and find more meanings for the words.
  • Choose students to present a term of their choice and create a sentence with the word. Allow them to share the answer with a partner before presenting if they need additional scaffolding.
(7 minutes)
  • Distribute and display the Movies Sentence Chunk worksheet and model reading the sentence to students. Ask a volunteer to reread the sentence and allow students to share the challenging words and sentence structures they find in the sentence (e.g., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s "The Wizard of Oz" and passive voice). Circle their answers on the teacher model and instruct students to do likewise.
  • Model separating the sentence into chunks while referencing the answer key and writing the chunks in the first column.
  • Think aloud rewording the first chunk and writing it in the second column of the table. Pair students to reword the next chunk and allow two students to share their rewording with the class.
  • Ask follow-up questions that focus on defining the passive voice in the chunk. Explain to students they'll need to reference a previous chuck to accurately define the current chunk, especially if the subject is not in the chunk. (Note: The reworded chunks don't need to create a new sentence.)
  • Have students share the main idea of the sentence (e.g., color film finally taken seriously) and the supporting details (e.g., after "The Wizard of Oz," after many experiments). Correct any misconceptions they have regarding the vocabulary or choosing the main idea and details in the sentence.
(7 minutes)
  • Distribute the Movies and Main Ideas worksheet and ask a student to read the paragraph. Allow students to discuss the topic of the paragraph in partners and find one detail they’d like to share with the class. Remind students the main idea is the most important thought in the paragraph, while the supporting details tell specific information about the main idea.
  • Choose three students to share the detail they chose and explain why they think it's a detail and not a main idea.
  • Reread the paragraph and model how to find the first question in the column, copy the text, and then reword the text to give the answer. Focus on why you would choose one sentence over another and how you phrased your answer to simplify the sentence. Refer to the answer sheet for ideas.
  • Ask students to work together to complete the rest of the table. Choose students to share all the answers aloud and focus on the main idea question. Ask follow-up questions like, "What supporting details from the text lead you to believe that’s the main idea? How do those details give more information about the main idea?"


  • Allow students to use their home language (L1) or their new language (L2) while working in groups. Provide word boxes they can use when completing their worksheets.
  • Create fill-in-the-blank sentences for the worksheets and provide a word bank with visuals for the answers.


  • Group advanced ELs with beginning ELs to provide support and assist in comprehension.
  • Allow them to present group work, share their formative assessments, and summarize the main ideas and supporting details during the closing section.
(5 minutes)
  • Distribute three index cards to each student.
  • Ask students to reread the paragraph in the Movies and Main Ideas worksheet and write the main idea on one index card and the two details that support their main idea on the other two index cards.
(3 minutes)
  • Ask a student to share their index card answers with the class.
  • Choose another student to summarize the difference between a main idea and supporting details, including how word, sentence, and paragraph structures helps them summarize. Encourage the student to use sentence stems from the Language Frames: Nonfiction Summary worksheet.

Add to collection

Create new collection

Create new collection

New Collection


New Collection>

0 items