Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
February 18, 2010

Ms. Jasztal's Reading Comprehension Series: Main Idea and Supporting Details

By Victoria Jasztal
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    When students read or listen to non-fiction, they must locate details that pertain to the main idea of the selection. Whenever we study a new unit in class, we rely on our prior knowledge and use focus questions as well as text features to help "set the purpose" for what we are preparing to read. This week's entry about locating the main idea and supporting details in a selection will help your students work on the most important skill in reading, and the most tested skill on the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test, in our case.

    Vocabulary to Teach Your Students

    • Main Idea: The main message the author is conveying to the reader
    • Supporting Details: The information that "backs" up the main message
    • Schema: Prior knowledge before reading the selection
    • Acquire: I tell my students to gather or "acquire knowledge" as they read, to "expand their schema" of the topic.
    • Text Features: Prior to reading the selection, have students look for text features. I have used this printable tally sheet (PDF) from Readinglady.com, which teaches about cutaway diagrams, sidebars, labeled pictures/diagrams, subtitles, and picture sequences/flow charts. This sheet has made my students more aware of text features and helped them "set the purpose" before reading. Along with this sheet, students wrote thick questions that were answered for the reader by looking at the text features.


    Centers

    Currently, my students are having 3-4 center rotations in one morning for a duration of 30 minutes each. Lately, I have been thinking of many creative ways for my students to focus on the skill of main idea and supporting details through audio podcasts, video podcasts, books on tape, board games, and printable resources that have been made available to me.

    Idea #1: Record yourself reading a selection and put it on a CD or iPod

    Implementation: My students are studying oceanography because we have been reading Adelina's Whales in the Macmillan Treasures series, as well as, a selection about coral reefs. We also recently studied Thomas Alva Edison because our unit in science was about electricity and he was born on February 11, 1847. Two ways I have recorded myself have been:

    • Going to Scholastic News online as well as the TIME for Kids website to find articles about coral reefs that I can record for my students to listen to on CD. I used the recording program, Audacity, to make this possible. By recording myself reading the articles in Audacity, I was able to introduce a few more difficult articles to read and explain the more challenging vocabulary used in the articles. One article was about how the freezing temperatures in Florida have impacted the coral reefs.
    • Second, I recorded myself reading a Reading A-Z selection about Thomas Alva Edison (level Z benchmark selection).
    • After recording your podcast (which I imported to an .mp3 file and put on CD using iTunes), either create your own sheet or use a sheet that encourages your students to search for pertinent details. Expository Text Structure (PDF) from FCRR.org is the file I am referencing for the center rotation about coral reefs. Then for the recording about Thomas Edison, I came up with these questions:
      • Schema: Write down a few facts you already knew about Thomas Edison prior to reading this article. (Encourage your students to write more complex statements than "He was an inventor", for example.)
      • Acquired Knowledge: Write down a few facts you learned today by listening to the recording about Thomas Edison. 
      • Numbers: Write down a fact that has numbers in it from the selection. (I always stress that facts with numbers in them are EXTREMELY important!)
      • People: I asked a few questions about names that appeared in the selection. Example: Write down the name of the man who was president when Thomas Alva Edison passed away in 1931. This man, in Edison's memory, asked everyone to dim their lights.
      • Vocabulary: Write down three words you consider to be "million dollar words" from the selection. Use one of these words in an original sentence, a sentence you come up with on your own. (This encourages students to use context clues.) 

    Idea #2: Incorporate Music

    Implementation: You can incorporate music using a CD player or iPods as well. There is a plethora of educational music out there; Mr. Duey and Rockin' the Standards (Tim Bedley) are the two educational music artists I have used the most this year. Both artists have music that can be downloaded on iTunes. After your students listen to the song, have them write down the "main message" the song was conveying to them. To make it less difficult to understand the music, provide lyrics as well, which is available at the artists' websites. Ask students to find the details that supported the "main message" as well.

    Idea #3: Create Sorting Games

    Implementation: You can create sorting games where students can categorize details and main ideas. This printable I created has cards that you can cut out for a center that has students categorize details pertaining to the St. Louis Arch, Yellowstone National Park, and Ellis Island. You can also create cards in a Microsoft Word file using tables that has students differentiate major and minor details.

    Idea #4: Use professional books that focus on main idea and supporting details

    • Main Ideas and Summarizing: 35 Reading Passages for Comprehension is one of Scholastic's best and very reasonably priced resources that focus on this skill. There are short passages on each page followed by four questions that focus on the main idea as well as the supporting details. There are also a few pages at the back of the book that are formatted a little differently. This may work extremely well for homework or for a contest in class.

    Idea #5: Use games and websites that focus on this skill in your classroom

    IMG_5737 IMG_5740

    Implementation:
    Two tremendous board games I have used in my classroom this week that pertain to main idea and supporting details are both from Lakeshore: Outlast and Capture the Flag. Another excellent board game is Reading Roadway. Additionally, here are some websites that address main idea and supporting details directly or a skill that goes hand-in-hand. You can have students visit these websites on the computer during reading rotations:

    Other basic ideas that support this skill:

    • Have students paraphrase information.
    • As stated earlier, have students write down thick questions that were answered for the reader by reading the selection.
    • Have students determine the most important vocabulary words in the selection that correlate with the main idea and author's purpose.
    • Have your students work in literature circles (around chart paper) to write down important vocabulary, thick questions, important details, and sketch pictures/text features that correlate with the main idea.
    • Have students write and record podcasts.
    • Encourage your students to read news articles online and comment on them. Encourage students to read the newspaper at home and watch the evening news. Ask them how they would tailor the evening news or write a newspaper to make it more pertinent for kids. 
    • Keep your classroom stocked with magazines that are full of non-fiction articles. I have a subscription to Scholastic Storyworks, yet I also have issues of Scholastic News, OWL, Boys' Life, Girls' Life, National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Explorer, Weekly Reader, TIME for Kids, and several others. If your students get done with a center rotation early, encourage them to look through the magazines to find an article that fascinates them.
    • Create a bulletin board that incorporates knowledge your students have acquired by reading non-fiction selections. Keep postcards and tacks handy so they can post their information on the board for others to see. Last year, I had a "schema board".
    • KWL is always an excellent strategy: what you knew before reading the selection, what you want to know, and what you learned once you read the selection. This is an excellent strategy when you begin a unit in class; since we are beginning our science unit on Force and Motion soon, I will be creating a KWL chart in a whole-group mini-lesson. 
    • Present your students with "dull reading material" and encourage your students to rewrite it to make it more exciting for the reader. You can encourage your students to rewrite parts of textbooks as well. Have them convert what they have read into a comic filled with interesting facts, for example.

     

    When students read or listen to non-fiction, they must locate details that pertain to the main idea of the selection. Whenever we study a new unit in class, we rely on our prior knowledge and use focus questions as well as text features to help "set the purpose" for what we are preparing to read. This week's entry about locating the main idea and supporting details in a selection will help your students work on the most important skill in reading, and the most tested skill on the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test, in our case.

    Vocabulary to Teach Your Students

    • Main Idea: The main message the author is conveying to the reader
    • Supporting Details: The information that "backs" up the main message
    • Schema: Prior knowledge before reading the selection
    • Acquire: I tell my students to gather or "acquire knowledge" as they read, to "expand their schema" of the topic.
    • Text Features: Prior to reading the selection, have students look for text features. I have used this printable tally sheet (PDF) from Readinglady.com, which teaches about cutaway diagrams, sidebars, labeled pictures/diagrams, subtitles, and picture sequences/flow charts. This sheet has made my students more aware of text features and helped them "set the purpose" before reading. Along with this sheet, students wrote thick questions that were answered for the reader by looking at the text features.


    Centers

    Currently, my students are having 3-4 center rotations in one morning for a duration of 30 minutes each. Lately, I have been thinking of many creative ways for my students to focus on the skill of main idea and supporting details through audio podcasts, video podcasts, books on tape, board games, and printable resources that have been made available to me.

    Idea #1: Record yourself reading a selection and put it on a CD or iPod

    Implementation: My students are studying oceanography because we have been reading Adelina's Whales in the Macmillan Treasures series, as well as, a selection about coral reefs. We also recently studied Thomas Alva Edison because our unit in science was about electricity and he was born on February 11, 1847. Two ways I have recorded myself have been:

    • Going to Scholastic News online as well as the TIME for Kids website to find articles about coral reefs that I can record for my students to listen to on CD. I used the recording program, Audacity, to make this possible. By recording myself reading the articles in Audacity, I was able to introduce a few more difficult articles to read and explain the more challenging vocabulary used in the articles. One article was about how the freezing temperatures in Florida have impacted the coral reefs.
    • Second, I recorded myself reading a Reading A-Z selection about Thomas Alva Edison (level Z benchmark selection).
    • After recording your podcast (which I imported to an .mp3 file and put on CD using iTunes), either create your own sheet or use a sheet that encourages your students to search for pertinent details. Expository Text Structure (PDF) from FCRR.org is the file I am referencing for the center rotation about coral reefs. Then for the recording about Thomas Edison, I came up with these questions:
      • Schema: Write down a few facts you already knew about Thomas Edison prior to reading this article. (Encourage your students to write more complex statements than "He was an inventor", for example.)
      • Acquired Knowledge: Write down a few facts you learned today by listening to the recording about Thomas Edison. 
      • Numbers: Write down a fact that has numbers in it from the selection. (I always stress that facts with numbers in them are EXTREMELY important!)
      • People: I asked a few questions about names that appeared in the selection. Example: Write down the name of the man who was president when Thomas Alva Edison passed away in 1931. This man, in Edison's memory, asked everyone to dim their lights.
      • Vocabulary: Write down three words you consider to be "million dollar words" from the selection. Use one of these words in an original sentence, a sentence you come up with on your own. (This encourages students to use context clues.) 

    Idea #2: Incorporate Music

    Implementation: You can incorporate music using a CD player or iPods as well. There is a plethora of educational music out there; Mr. Duey and Rockin' the Standards (Tim Bedley) are the two educational music artists I have used the most this year. Both artists have music that can be downloaded on iTunes. After your students listen to the song, have them write down the "main message" the song was conveying to them. To make it less difficult to understand the music, provide lyrics as well, which is available at the artists' websites. Ask students to find the details that supported the "main message" as well.

    Idea #3: Create Sorting Games

    Implementation: You can create sorting games where students can categorize details and main ideas. This printable I created has cards that you can cut out for a center that has students categorize details pertaining to the St. Louis Arch, Yellowstone National Park, and Ellis Island. You can also create cards in a Microsoft Word file using tables that has students differentiate major and minor details.

    Idea #4: Use professional books that focus on main idea and supporting details

    • Main Ideas and Summarizing: 35 Reading Passages for Comprehension is one of Scholastic's best and very reasonably priced resources that focus on this skill. There are short passages on each page followed by four questions that focus on the main idea as well as the supporting details. There are also a few pages at the back of the book that are formatted a little differently. This may work extremely well for homework or for a contest in class.

    Idea #5: Use games and websites that focus on this skill in your classroom

    IMG_5737 IMG_5740

    Implementation:
    Two tremendous board games I have used in my classroom this week that pertain to main idea and supporting details are both from Lakeshore: Outlast and Capture the Flag. Another excellent board game is Reading Roadway. Additionally, here are some websites that address main idea and supporting details directly or a skill that goes hand-in-hand. You can have students visit these websites on the computer during reading rotations:

    Other basic ideas that support this skill:

    • Have students paraphrase information.
    • As stated earlier, have students write down thick questions that were answered for the reader by reading the selection.
    • Have students determine the most important vocabulary words in the selection that correlate with the main idea and author's purpose.
    • Have your students work in literature circles (around chart paper) to write down important vocabulary, thick questions, important details, and sketch pictures/text features that correlate with the main idea.
    • Have students write and record podcasts.
    • Encourage your students to read news articles online and comment on them. Encourage students to read the newspaper at home and watch the evening news. Ask them how they would tailor the evening news or write a newspaper to make it more pertinent for kids. 
    • Keep your classroom stocked with magazines that are full of non-fiction articles. I have a subscription to Scholastic Storyworks, yet I also have issues of Scholastic News, OWL, Boys' Life, Girls' Life, National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Explorer, Weekly Reader, TIME for Kids, and several others. If your students get done with a center rotation early, encourage them to look through the magazines to find an article that fascinates them.
    • Create a bulletin board that incorporates knowledge your students have acquired by reading non-fiction selections. Keep postcards and tacks handy so they can post their information on the board for others to see. Last year, I had a "schema board".
    • KWL is always an excellent strategy: what you knew before reading the selection, what you want to know, and what you learned once you read the selection. This is an excellent strategy when you begin a unit in class; since we are beginning our science unit on Force and Motion soon, I will be creating a KWL chart in a whole-group mini-lesson. 
    • Present your students with "dull reading material" and encourage your students to rewrite it to make it more exciting for the reader. You can encourage your students to rewrite parts of textbooks as well. Have them convert what they have read into a comic filled with interesting facts, for example.

     

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

Victoria's Most Recent Posts
Blog Post
Saying Farewell as Your Grades 3-5 Advisor

I wanted to take a few moments to take the time to thank you for visiting the Classroom Solutions weblog at Scholastic this past year. Being the grades 3-5 teacher advisor was a "dream come true" for me, as I have loved Scholastic since I indulged in The Baby-Sitters Club series as a child. Posting the weekly topics was an intriguing opportunity. Read more to read about this whirlwind of a year, from the time I found out I was going to be an advisor to the bittersweet departure yesterday.

By Victoria Jasztal
June 11, 2010
Blog Post
1,400 minutes... How do you measure a year?

Yesterday was the day of our end-of-the-year fourth grade awards ceremony, and I was thinking to myself, How do you measure a year? There are challenges we all face, whether they are academic challenges or we must handle difficult situations with our students. Then of course, there are times where we encounter great joy. There are times where we do not feel as if we have planned enough, while on the other hand, there are times in which we plan too much. Then obviously, of course, there are the field trips, and this year, we had our fair share of them, from our local one to the environmental center in Weeki Wachee to the "major ones" such as the Renaissance Festival, Gainesville, and St. Augustine.

Though I have not officially said "Goodbye" to my students as fourth graders, it was still difficult as they watched the 45-minute slideshow, I presented the classroom awards, and I went on stage to present the academic achievement awards such as Superintendent's List (Never below an A for the year), Principal's List ("A" average in all subjects for the year, though B's can be on the report card), and Honor Roll (A's and B's for the year). I felt a phenomenal sense of pride for my students as I presented the eight Superintendent's List awards, the two for Principal's List, and another eight for Honor Roll. My students have achieved a lot, and they should feel a great sense of honor. Read on to hear more about how this special day progressed.

By Victoria Jasztal
June 3, 2010
Blog Post
Reflecting on the School Year

At the end of the school year, most teachers reflect about what their students' have learned and what they can change to improve instruction the next time around. Every year, I sit down for a while and think about what I want to do differently in the coming year.

By Victoria Jasztal
May 27, 2010
Blog Post
Ensuring a Tremendous End to a Memorable School Year

In just three weeks, the 2009-2010 school year will be coming to an end, and prior to then, I plan on doing a few things to ensure it is a memorable time. This week, I invite for you to read about my plans, some of which you can incorporate on your own. Some you will be able to incorporate this year; others you can try for next year!

By Victoria Jasztal
May 19, 2010
Blog Post
Incorporate Math and Science with an Outdoor Camping Day Event

In my parting weeks as your grades 3-5 teacher advisor, I want to advise something important to all teachers: DON’T EVER BE AFRAID TO TAKE RISKS. Last year, I envisioned having a day of camping with my fourth grade students on our school’s nature trail. Today, it became a reality as my students participated in the first outdoor camping event I ever hosted. I am grateful I took the risk. Read on to see the ideas I came up with for this year's event.

By Victoria Jasztal
May 12, 2010
Blog Post
Embrace Creative Technology With These Websites

Do you want to encourage a greater use of technology in your classroom? Whether you want your students to create their own comics, use digital cameras, type information in graphic organizers online, edit photos, or make an online slide show, the links that follow can be particularly useful!

By Victoria Jasztal
May 5, 2010
My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us