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Main Idea and Supporting Details
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Skills Needed to Identify Main Idea
Students must be able to: Identify the main “Who” and “What” of a text Locate the most important details that support the main idea Many times there will be more than 3 supporting details; however, we ask that students identify at least three. As well, teachers should help students find the more important details if they are only finding less prominent ones. Sometimes authors tell readers what their paragraphs or articles are about. When the author does this, he has stated the main idea. Normally, the main idea is the first or last sentence of a paragraph. Do authors always state the main idea? No, sometimes authors will imply their main ideas. It is important for students to know this and for teachers to select texts with the type of main idea they want to teach.
There are several strategies for students to determine the main idea and supporting details. Each strategy should be modeled and practiced before students are expected to perform independently. Students must be able to correctly identify main idea and supporting details before any other comprehension skills can be taught. Start with simple pieces and work up to more complex pieces. Examples could be pictures, songs, movies, paragraphs, articles, textbook sections, and/or any variety of primary sources.
Graphic Organizers It is important to model a different graphic organizer as often as possible. Students should practice each graphic organizer with the teacher, but be allowed to choose the graphic organizer they feel most comfortable with when working to determine main ideas and supporting details.
Table Top or Fish Bone
Four Square Graphic Organizers will be used in all sections of the curriculum. In this example, the Four Square graphic organizer would work great for Community Building.
Graphic Organizers Many other graphic organizers can be found in the curriculum or online. For example, the mind web is great for students to free think.
Who + What = Main Idea Formula
Teach the main idea formula: Main “Who”+ Main “What” = Main Idea and always have students apply the formula using one or more of the activities to give them confidence. *The Main “Who” is not always a person, as it can be any noun. The Main “What” will always be a verb. Who + What = Main Idea
Ways to Apply Formula Select a picture that relates to the day’s lesson or unit. For example, this can be a picture of a battle scene, a diagram of a scientific process, or a character from a literary work. Have students identify all of the details of the picture and then just focus for the Main “Who” and Main “What.” Students must then justify this by supporting their answer with at least three details from the picture. Select a movie clip or a song that relates to the day’s lesson or unit. Repeat the same process that was used with the picture. Select a short paragraph from an article, textbook, etc… that relates to day’s lesson or unit. Repeat the same process that was used with picture. Two Word Weekend-Students share the main idea of their weekend Each of the above activities can lead to a discussion about what will be covered in lesson or unit and allows you to either find out what prior knowledge students possess or create prior knowledge.
Annotate the Text Have students highlight three most important details then write the Main “Who”+ Main “What” beside the text. Sometimes the main idea will be the first or last sentence. This can be done in a paragraph or an entire text. Have students mark out sentences that do not appear important. Next, students should look at the sentences that remain to determine the main idea. Students may have an easier time crossing out sentences that they know are “extra.”
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