EL Support Lesson

Main ideas and Details

Use this lesson to help your ELs understand main idea and supporting details. They'll analyze non-fiction word, sentence, and paragraph structures. It can be a stand-alone lesson or a support lesson to the In Search of Main Ideas lesson.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the In Search of the Main Idea and Putting it Together to Find the Main Idea lesson plans.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the In Search of the Main Idea and Putting it Together to Find the Main Idea lesson plans.

Students will be able to identify main ideas and supporting details.


Students will be able to find and recount the main ideas and details with new vocabulary using graphic organizers.

(5 minutes)
  • Access prior knowledge of main idea and supporting details by projecting the Topic of Details worksheet. Read the words in each section and ask students to label each group with a sticky note based on the ideas listed. Allow students to place their sticky notes above the correct group, share answers, and explain how they labelled the group of words using sentence stems if necessary.
  • Tell students the listed ideas are supporting details for the main idea, or the central ideas of the grouped details. Supporting details are ideas that tell more about the main idea.
  • Model completing a Frayer Model for main idea and check students' comprehension throughout by asking them to orally repeat the definition or provide examples.
  • Tell students they will analyze new words, sentences, and a paragraph to help them understand how to find the main ideas and its supporting details.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain to the students that they'll learn how to find the main ideas and supporting details in paragraphs, but first they'll learn new tier 1, 2, and 3 vocabulary terms. Present the tier 1 and tier 3 vocabulary words. Use visuals as you define each word and allow students to discuss how the visual relates to the new word.
  • Post the Frayer Models around the room and remind students of how to complete the models. Conduct a Carousel activity by separating the students into groups of three and ask them to rotate from one Frayer Model to another. Each group will have their own colored pencil to add thoughts and notes about the tiered vocabulary words.
  • Separate students into groups with a completed Frayer Model and have them answer questions aloud about the word. For instance, "What does the word mean? In what subject can you use the word?"
  • Allow students to create and share aloud their own sentences with the new vocabulary words. For example, "I'm a mammal too because I have hair, and I drank milk from my mother."
(8 minutes)
  • Display the Shark Sentence Chunk worksheet and read the sentence to the students. Ask a volunteer to reread the sentence and have students pick out the unfamiliar words or phrases.
  • Allow students to share the challenging words they find in the sentence, and model separating the sentence into chunks by circling some of the difficult phrases, or phrases in between commas.
  • Point out the table in the Shark Sentence Chunk worksheet, show how to reword the first chunk, and then pair students to reword the next two chunks. Allow students to share their rewording with the class and then have them complete the last chunks on their own. (Note: The reworded chunks don't need to create a new sentence. See the answer sheet for examples.)
  • Choose nonvolunteers to share their answers and ask students to adjust their answers as necessary. Ask students to share which sentence they thought was most challenging to reword and explain why. Finally, correct any misconceptions they have regarding the vocabulary or completion of the activity.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute the Sea Creatures Sizes worksheet, read it to the students, and ask them to circle new vocabulary words. Ask students to tell you what they think this paragraph is talking about and write their responses on the board.
  • Explain that the author typically writes the main idea in the first or last sentence. Have them turn and talk to their partners about what they think the main idea is and what the supporting details are that support it.
  • Distribute the Concept Web worksheet and have students discuss where they'd put the main idea and supporting details on the web. Ask students to reread the text and then complete the concept web with the main idea and details found in the Sea Creature Sizes worksheet. Allow students to share their webs with their partners.


  • Provide word banks and phrases for students to use to complete all graphic organizers. Allow them to use the vocabulary cards throughout the lesson and all their assignments.
  • Pair them with sympathetic partners that will read the text for them and allow the beginning ELs to provide a summary of the text before reading it themselves.
  • Provide a partially completed Frayer Model and Concept Web with a bank of phrases for ELs to use to complete the worksheets.


  • Allow them to complete independent sentences that do not use the sentences frames. Provide feedback on their answers and offer suggestions as necessary.
  • Have them provide the meaning of words or input to model correct use of new words.
  • Ask them to rephrase the directions or definitions as appropriate.
(4 minutes)
  • Have students review their Sea Creature Sizes concept web. Distribute a lined sheet of paper for the students to explain their concept web, their process, and justify their choice of the main idea and supporting details. Allow students to use the sentence frames from the Language Frames: Nonfiction Summaries worksheet in their paragraphs.
  • Assess students' understanding of identifying main ideas and supporting details by evaluating their accuracy on the concept web, sentence writing, and participation throughout the class.
(3 minutes)
  • Reiterate that students find the main idea and details in texts so they can understand what they're reading. Ask a student to define main idea and supporting details once more.
  • Distribute sticky notes to students and ask them to answer one of the following sentence starters using at least three of the vocabulary words from the lesson today:
    • I understand ____.
    • I don't understand ____.
    • I need more information about ____.
  • Allow students to volunteer their responses and use them as an assessment of how to continue with your teaching of main ideas and supporting details.

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