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Hey! What’s the Big Idea?
Students will be able to identify the main idea of a nonfiction text.
- Tell students that today we will be looking at different nonfiction texts and identifying the main idea of each text.
- Explain that the main idea is what the text is mostly about.
- Explain that in order to determine the main idea of a text you have to look for clues throughout the reading process.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(10 minutes)
- On the top of chart paper write the headings “Before,” “During,” and “After.”
- Explain to students that it is important to look for clues before actually reading by looking at the text and the different graphic features. For nonfiction texts these clues include: the title, headings, table of contents, pictures and labels, captions, graphs/charts, and words in bold. Write these ideas under the “Before” heading.
- Explain to students that during the reading process it is good to stop and think about what the author is trying to tell you and to see what words are being repeated. Write these ideas under the “During” heading.
- Explain to students that after reading you can ask yourself, “What is the author trying to teach me?” “What is this text mostly about?” and “What details support the main idea?” Tell students that details are the key points that support the main idea. Write these ideas under the “After” heading.
- Ask students to share any other clues they might use to determine the main idea of a text. Add their ideas to the chart paper.
Guided Practice(17 minutes)
- Project the worksheet John Muir: Father of the National Parks.
- Before reading the nonfiction text, ask students to look at the text to search for clues. Encourage students to look at the chart paper to help remind them of clues to look for before reading.
- Ask students to share any clues they found.
- Read John Muir: Father of the National Parks aloud and ask students to follow along silently.
- Pause throughout the text to ask students, “What words are being repeated?” and “What do you think the author is trying to tell you so far?”
- Finish reading the text.
- Ask students to think about what the main idea of this text is.
- Tell students to turn and talk to a neighbor to share their ideas. Ask students to show you a thumbs up when they are ready to share. Call on volunteers.
- Write the main idea on the board (e.g., "The main idea is that John Muir was a naturalist who supports wildlife conservation and preservation.").
- Call on students to share some details that support the main idea. Write three supporting details on the board (e.g., "He wrote articles and books calling for Yosemite to be made into a national park so it could be protected.").
Independent working time(20 minutes)
- Tell students that they will now practice using clues to independently identify the main idea of a nonfiction text.
- Project the worksheet Days of the Dead Around the World.
- Read Days of the Dead Around the World aloud and ask students to follow along silently.
- Ask students to write the main idea of this text and three supporting details using complete sentences on lined paper.
- For students who need extra scaffolding, sit with them to organize their thoughts by using a graphic organizer (e.g., web).
- For students who find the text too challenging, give them the Finding the Main Idea: Madam C.J. Walker worksheet as an alternate text to work with.
- Have students apply the skills learned to their own writing. Encourage them to revisit a piece of their own writing and identify the main idea and details.
- Have advanced students select a paragraph from a nonfiction classroom reading book. Have the student identify the main idea and supporting details on a separate piece of paper.
- Call students to the rug.
- Have students volunteer to pick a pair of sentence strips and read the sentences aloud (e.g., "Some hurricanes are strong enough to destroy houses," "Hurricanes are dangerous storms").
- Have the volunteer call on a classmate to identify which sentence is an example of a main idea and which sentence is an example of a supporting detail.
- Ask students to agree or disagree with their classmate's answer by showing a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.
- Repeat this activity until all of the sentence strips have been read.
Review and closing(10 minutes)
- Summarize the importance of being able to identify the main idea in a text. Explain that understanding the relationship between the main idea and supporting details is at the core of reading comprehension. In order to truly understand a text, we need to understand what an author is trying to say and why the author has chosen to use certain details.
- Ask students to think about a book or movie they recently read or watched.
- Ask for volunteers to identify the main idea in their book or movie.