Focus Question: How do we use the main idea and key details to retell an informational text?
Display the poem “The Squirrel” for all students to see, but cover the title. Say, “As I read the poem, try to identify the important details that will help us determine the main idea.”
Read the poem a second time, stopping to let students identify key details that lead to the main idea. List key details on the board or on chart paper as students identify them.
Next, analyze the key details together. Model for students how to retell the poem using the key details. Say, “This animal runs up and down the tree. It scampers along the ground. It has a big furry, curly tail and eats food that comes out of a shell.” Ask, “What type of animal is this?” (a squirrel)
Say, “We were able to retell the key details in the poem, and that helped us determine what the poem is about. Now we are going to do the same thing with an informational text.”
Display the book A Day in the Life of a Police Officer by Linda Hayward. Read the title and then ask, “What do you predict this book will be about?” (police officers and what they do on the job each day) “Why do you think so?” Record students’ responses to revisit after the book is read.
Say, “We will read the text together and look for key details. We will write the key details in a list on chart paper. At the end, we will look at the details and determine the main idea of the text.”
Begin by reading pages 4–5. Think aloud and model how to identify key details. Say, “I see the word police two times.” Put highlighter tape on the words police/police officer. Say, “An author sometimes repeats a word in the text. The author clues the reader to pay attention to the information around that word.” Ask, “What key detail can we see in the illustrations?” (a woman in a police uniform and a badge) Record the key detail that a police officer wears a badge and a uniform.
Read pages 6–7. Discuss with students what key details are on these pages. (example: The sergeant is in charge of the other officers.) Encourage students to identify any details they feel are important. Ask them to explain why they think these details are important. Model how to highlight any words that pertain to the main idea or that are repeated on the pages. (examples: police officer/job/patrols/keeps us safe)
Continue reading the text, thinking aloud, and discussing key details to record. Highlight words that are part of the main idea. (Some key details include police officers drive a patrol car; police officers help when the traffic lights are out by directing traffic; some police officers ride horses, some ride bikes, and some ride motorcycles; police dogs help police officers; police patrol the neighborhood to keep us safe.)
After you have read the text, review the key details with students. Say, “Look at the highlighted words. What repeated word do you see?” (police officer). Demonstrate how to analyze the details to determine the main idea of the text. Say, “I think this text is about ways police officers patrol neighborhoods to keep us safe.” Articulate the main idea in sentence form and write it at the top of the chart paper above the list of key details. For example, write Police officers keep us safe in many different ways. Model how to go back to the text to verify that the details support the main idea. Think aloud, “The details we listed tell what a police office does. They tell ways police officers help people.”
Help students understand the difference between a topic and a main idea. Say, “If we say ‘This book is about police officers,’ we are telling the topic. If we say, ‘This book is about how police officers keep us safe,’ we are telling what the book is mostly about, which is the main idea.”
Finally, have students revisit their predictions of what the book is about. Discuss whether their predictions were correct. Then have students summarize the text by retelling the key details.
In advance of this part of the lesson, prepare a flip book for each student. A flip book consists of four sheets of paper, each sheet longer than the one before it. Staple the sheets together at the top (see illustration). You may label the pages as shown or guide students to label them.
Using A Day in the Life of a Police Officer as a model, demonstrate how to write the title on the first page of the flip book. Then ask, “What is one important detail in this book?” Write the detail on the page labeled Detail 1. Have students identify another important detail and write that on the page labeled Detail 2 of the flip book. Ask, “What is the main idea of this book?” Write the main idea on the last page of the flip book.
Distribute a blank flip book to each student along with an informational text at his/her reading level. Instruct students to write their name and the title of the book on the first page. Then have them read their book. Remind them to look for repeated words and other details.Tell them to write an important detail on each inside page of the flip book.
Circulate around the room and provide assistance to students who have difficulty identifying key details.
Say, “After you have written two details in your flip book, use them to figure out the main idea. Write the main idea on the last page of the flip book.” Provide assistance as needed.
Tell students to draw illustrations in their flip books to go with each detail and the main idea.
When students have completed their flip books, have them do a share-share-switch activity. Tell them to find a partner, share the details of their flip book, and ask their partner to guess the main idea. Then they should reveal the actual main idea to their partner. Partners should then switch roles and have the other person share details, let their partner guess the main idea, and then share the main idea. If additional practice is needed, each student could repeat the activity with a different partner.
As the share-share-switch activity is in process, walk around the room, checking for student understanding of key details, how to use key details to summarize a text, and how to use key details to determine the main idea of the text.
Collect flip books to grade or put in a portfolio.
- For students who need additional practice or instruction, provide a concrete example by comparing main idea and details to a recipe. The main idea of the recipe is the end product. The details are the ingredients you need to get the end product. Then, use a simple text and guide students to find details that will add up to the main idea. Create a list of the details. Review the detail list with students and then ask them what these details are mostly about. After they articulate the main idea, write it in sentence form above the list.
- Students who are ready to move beyond the standard can use the skills learned in this lesson to analyze one or more chapters of a chapter book. (See Related Resources at the end of the lesson for suggested titles.) Students may use a
T-chart or a flip book to record the topic, key details, and main idea for one or more chapters. Then discuss how the chapters help support the main idea of the book.