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EL Support Lesson
Main Idea and Supporting Evidence
Students will be able to identify the main idea and one piece of supporting evidence in a fictional text.
Students will be able to identify the main idea in a story by focusing on the subject and using interactive supports.
- Write a student-friendly learning objective on the board and read it aloud. An example objective is, "I can find the main idea and supporting evidence in a story."
- Under the objective, write a sentence stem that reads: "I think we will learn about..."
- Tell students to turn to a seat partner. Explain that one partner will be A and the other will be B. (Note: Help students form partnerships, if needed, and hand out sticky notes to assign A and B partners.)
- Instruct partner A to read the objective aloud to partner B. Then tell partner B to explain the objective in their own words using the sentence stem for support. (Note: Write the letter A next to the objective and the letter B next to the sentence stem on the board to support students in understanding their roles.)
- Explain that today they will read some short stories as they practice finding the main idea and supporting evidence in each story.
Building academic language
- Display the vocabulary card with the term main idea and explain the main idea is what the text is mostly about.
- Point out the image of the umbrella and explain that an umbrella can help us remember—because, like an umbrella covers us, the main idea covers the whole text.
- Use a gesture to help students remember the definition of "main idea". For example, hold your arms over your head in an arch, like an umbrella.
- Tell students to make the same gesture as they say the key term, "main idea," aloud.
- Give an example of main idea from a familiar story that you've read recently with the class. An example sentence could be the following: "The main idea of The Three Little Pigs is that the pigs build houses and a wolf blows them down."
- Repeat this process with the word evidence (passages or quotes from the text that support the main idea). Introduce the definition and associated image for the word, make a gesture, and invite students to make the gesture while saying the word out loud. Follow up by providing an example of "evidence" using a familiar story.
- Show students the vocabulary card with the term adopt and read the definition out loud. Explain that this is a word that they will see later in their reading activity.
- Have students turn to their A/B partner and come up with a gesture that will help them remember the definition.
- Invite a few student volunteers to share their gesture.
- Repeat with the term creatures.
- Tell students that when we are looking for the main idea in a story or text, the first thing we need to do is identify the subject of the story. Display the vocabulary card with the term subject and review the definition ("who or what the sentence is about").
- Write a sentence on the board that reads, "The tired firefighter sat down to rest in the shade."
- Remind students that the subject is the person, place, thing, or idea that the sentence is mainly about. Reiterate that not every noun is a subject.
- Underline the subject in the sentence (firefighter) and explain that, in this example, the sentence is about the firefighter who sits down to rest.
- Hand out the worksheet entitled What Is the Subject? and review the example at the top of the page.
- Instruct students to find and underline the subject of the remaining sentences in section one with their A/B partner.
- Invite student volunteers to share their answers for each question. Correct misconceptions as needed.
- Handout the Can You Spot the Main Idea? worksheet and review the example at the top of the page.
- Point out the difference between the main idea and the subject. The subject is just the who or what, while the main idea includes what the subject is doing (i.e., "the pigs" are the subject, while "the pigs built houses that were blown down" is the main idea).
- Read the first short story aloud as students follow along.
- Model to students how you would identify the main idea of the story, using a "think aloud" protocol. Incorporate the main idea gesture into your think aloud. To start, for example, you can say, "I see that the subject of this story is Camilla because that is the person who the story is mainly about. In the story, Camilla is trying to write about her family, so I know that is the main idea. I can see that the main idea is repeated throughout the story, like here at the beginning when it says...."
- Circle a sentence or phrase that reflects the main idea in the story.
- Instruct students to discuss and answer the first question out loud with their A/B partner. Then, model how you would write the main idea as a one-sentence summary (i.e., "A girl named Camilla is trying to write about her family.").
- Tell students that there is evidence in the story that supports the main idea. Read the story aloud a second time and mark a piece of evidence with the letter E. Be sure to model your thinking and incorporate the "evidence" gesture. For example, you might say, "When it says ____ in the story, it tells me more information about the main idea."
- Instruct students to discuss and answer the second question on the worksheet with their A/B partner. Then call on students to share their responses.
- Lead students in a choral reading of the story in section two. Then tell students to answer the questions with their A/B partner. Remind students to circle the main idea in the text and mark at least one piece of evidence with the letter E as you did in your model.
- When everyone is finished, invite several students to share their answers with the class.
Additional EL adaptations
- Support students in completing the Frayer Model for one of the key terms, like "main idea."
- Provide sentence frames for beginning ELs during oral language tasks.
- Display a word bank and add key terms to it throughout the lesson to support oral language and writing tasks.
- Allow beginning ELs to use bilingual resources to define new words throughout the lesson.
- Reduce the length of the assessment text (i.e., use just the first paragraph).
- Strategically form A/B partnerships so that beginning ELs are paired with someone who speaks the same home language (L1).
- For additional discourse practice, support your advanced ELs in completing part two of the What Is the Subject? worksheet.
Formative assessment of academic language(5 minutes)
- Have students independently read the story on the worksheet Rochelle's Birthday Surprise and instruct them to think about the main idea and evidence as they read.
- Display the story and read it aloud as students follow along. (Note: It is not necessary for students to answer the question at the bottom of the worksheet.)
- As you read, tell students to make the "main idea" gesture when they hear information that reveals the main idea and tell them to make the "evidence" gesture when they hear information that supports the main idea.
- Scan student responses to gauge understanding.
Review and closing(3 minutes)
- Write two sentence stems on the board that read, "The main idea is..." and "I know this because I read...."
- Have students stand up in two lines, with each student facing their A/B partner, so that all A's are in one line and B's are in the other. (Note: Students should be about arms length from the person next to them in line, but standing close to the partner they are facing.)
- Tell students to use the sentence frames to discuss the story, "Rochelle's Birthday Surprise," with their partner. Explain that A's should share first, then B's. (Note: Each student will use both sentence frames. The story should still be displayed during this activity.)
- After one minute, signal students in the A line to move to their right while the B line stays still. Now, every student should be facing a new partner.
- Instruct students to repeat the discussion activity with their new partner, with B's sharing first.
- After one minute, have the A line move to the right again and repeat the activity a third time, with A's sharing first.