Outlining Main Ideas and Details Adapted from: Expository Writing by Tara McCarthy, page 72.
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
Students understand the differences between main ideas and details. They also add the outlining strategy to their expository writing repertoire.
- Read and evaluate a piece of expository writing.
- Participate in a class discussion of the outlining process.
- Practice the process of outlining a piece of expository writing.
- Create their own outline for the purpose of presentation.
- Overhead projector/pen
- Worksheets from: Expository Writing by Tara McCarthy
Worksheet 1: A Sample Outline (PDF)
Worksheet 2: An Outline of My Report (PDF)
- Transparency copies of Worksheets 1 and 2
- Class set of articles from various sources: Magazines, Internet, etc.
- Transparency copy of a sample article to model the outlining process
Set Up and Prepare
- Copy a class set of Worksheet 1 for all students.
- Copy three class sets of Worksheet 2 for all students.
- Copy a class set of sample articles.
- Schedule a class visit to your school library.
Step 1: Using the overhead, display a transparency copy of worksheet 1: A Sample Outline.
Step 2: Conduct a class discussion about the main ideas and details of the article by asking students the following questions: What is the subject of the report? What are the main ideas? What facts explain or support each main idea? Each main idea needs at least three facts to support it. Which main idea needs at least two more supporting facts?
Step 3: Explain that the notes a writer has taken to write an article may include facts or ideas that fit in with the main ideas as well as facts that do not fit. Go through the sample outline and discuss these main ideas and facts.
Step 1: Using the overhead, display a transparency copy of a sample article and read it aloud to students.
Step 2: Distribute Worksheet 2: An Outline of My Report to students, and place a transparency copy of Worksheet 2 on the overhead.
Step 3: Conduct a class discussion about the main ideas/details of the sample article and come up with a subject/topic sentence for the article.
Step 4: Model the process of outlining an article by filling out the rest of Worksheet 2 on the overhead. When finished, allow student to ask any questions they may have about the process.
Step 1: Distribute the second set of Worksheet 2: An Outline of My Report.
Step 2: Depending on students' abilities or maturity, divide the class into groups and distribute the class set of sample articles. Have students read through the article and discuss the main ideas/details and come up with the subject/topic sentences for the article.
Step 3: Students should next complete the rest of their outline (either in a group or independently) and then compare their findings with each other.
Step 1: Students will visit the school library and begin looking for any type of expository reading material of their choosing: magazine, Internet, book, etc. (If you do not have a school library, provide a selection of magazines, newspapers, Internet articles, etc.)
Step 2: Distribute the third set of Worksheet 2: An Outline of My Report. After locating an interesting article, students will individually begin filling out their outlines.
Step 3: Near the end of the class period, instruct students to trade their outlines with a peer of their choosing to get a second opinion on the facts and details that they have located. Do details support the main idea? Are there enough details?
Step 1: Students give their presentations using the outline.
- Further investigate the outline by writing a research report on the topic.
- Have students conduct interviews with a person in the community who deals professionally with the topic they have chosen. For example, if the topic is cars, the student may want to interview a mechanic. They can ask if there are other main ideas or details they might have missed.
Refine outlines at home. Practices giving a presentation from the outline.
- Was there enough time?
- Were the students successful in completing the assigned worksheets?
- Could the students apply the outlining process to a piece of expository material?
- Did students understand the importance of main idea/detail?
- Did students understand the outlining strategy?
- Did students participate in discussions?
- Were students engaged while working in groups or independently?
- Were students able to apply the outlining strategy to an article of their own choosing?
- Were students able to present their own topics orally, using an outline as a tool?