Teaching Main Idea and Some FREEBIES

Teaching main idea and supporting details is one of my favorite units with my fifth graders. There are just so many things you can do to practice and no limit on the topics you can read about and discuss!

This year our main idea unit falls in February, so I’m focusing much of our reading on the topics of kindness and Black History, but I’ll also include some of my other main idea activities and favorites from years past. All of these resources could be done in class or in virtual meetings and as distance learning assignments.

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To begin, I’ll be introducing the topic with this lesson on identifying and determining main idea and summarizing supporting details. I’ve prerecorded this lesson for students who may need it virtually, but it also includes an editable Google Slides deck that I’ll use in class with my kiddos. To end the lesson, as an exit ticket, we’ll use these Google Jamboards asking the students to add details that support the two main ideas (focused on kindness) that I’ve included.

This lesson also includes an independent or collaborative project that students will complete once they’ve had sufficient practice with determining main idea and summarizing the supporting details. This project asks students to search for and read several texts (articles and books from Epic and Newsela) that focus on kindness. While reading, they will identify details that support two main idea statements I’ve given them. To share their findings, students will choose a creative project from the menu included.

Another great resource I’ll use, either as guided practice or as an independent task, is this Inky Johnson Summarizing Video Writing Lesson. This activity features an ESPN SC Featured video about the University of Tennessee defensive back Inky Johnson, whose football career was ended by a tragic injury. Students will watch the video and complete a main idea graphic organizer, then use that to write a summary of the most important information in the video. This resource is free by clicking on the link above.

I’m also including a Main Idea Reading Response Menu into my unit. I’ll use these reading responses as a way for students to respond to our read alouds for Black History month, along with responding to their own independent reading. I’ll be sending them a collection of books and articles for Black History Month through their GetEpic! library and a Newsela text set. I’ll also include some other reading and videos from various resources for a variety of choice reading options. This Main Idea Reading Response Menu is free and can be used on Google Classroom as a digital response item or you could print the first page for your students to add to their response journals and complete in their notebooks. I’ll have my students share their reading responses digitally, either on Flipgrid, or in a Padlet, for their classmates to view and discover texts and people they are interested in reading and learning more about.

And if we need any more practice resources, my students and I always love these Main Idea and Details Digital Reading and Writing mini-book projects. I’ve used these as differentiated small group instructional resources in previous years, along with differentiated final assessment projects, test prep and extension in other years. You can read more about this resource and how I’ve used it in the past in a previous blog post here.

As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve found some resources you can use with your own students this year!

Using A Digital Fiction Book Project for Distance Learning

One of the problems that I’ve noticed the most with distance learning, is the amount of extra time that teachers are having to take to get resources ready for digital distance learning. The strategies and resources that teachers are using is new for so many of us and the learning curve itself with what works for this, and what teaching looks like in this time, is new and requires big changes. Change takes time.

My Digital Fiction Book Project is one resource that could save some of that time. The beauty of this Google Slides project is the amount of flexibility it allows for the teacher and students. The project can be used with any text and provides two versions (pages with graphic organizers and pages without) of the most common fiction reading comprehension skills. Several of the pages can also be used with nonfiction texts as well. The teacher can assign the reading, with a specific text for students to show comprehension, or have students choose their own book, allowing for differentiation and higher engagement. Yay – said the students!

See a blank version of the project here.

Teachers can either assign the pages with the graphic organizers pre-made, or have their students create their own ways of showing their comprehension and use/mastery of each skill. Teachers can choose to only assign certain comprehension pages, or all, or assign the project to a collaborative group of students and have them work on separate slides in the same project. This is a resource that could be used multiple times, allowing the teacher to also establish a routine during distance learning, making the work easier for their students and parents to navigate each week.

To complete the project, students use digital snapshots (use their snipping tool or screen capture tool) of the text to prove their thinking along with their own explanations to provide evidence of their understanding. This can be done with either digital ebooks or with print text. Students who need to complete the resource without wifi can use a print version of the project pages, or use the “edit offline” option that Google allows. And because it’s a Google apps project, students can use any device that allows them to connect to Google Apps (a PC or device with Google Slides downloaded from the app store).

The project can be easily assigned by using an email link or through your Google Classroom.

My students and I have always enjoyed presenting the projects as well, which could be done through a Zoom or Google Meets class meeting, on Flipgrid using a Screencastify video (free versions available for teachers and students) or any other screen/voice recording tool.

This project has always been one of the favorite comprehension project assignments in my classes and I hope that it would be the same for your students, along with being a helpful and valuable resource for your distance teaching materials!

remove.bg for book and writing responses

I recently learned about this site in an email from my tech coaches. I knew I wanted to use it but didn’t have a legitimate reason to use it in my reading classroom. Today, however, when I introduced digital reading responses, specifically #booksnaps, it was the perfect site.

#Booksnaps – Do your students do a daily response to their independent reading? I’ve always used a variety of strategies (worksheets, post-its, reading journals, interactive notebooks) but have never found one that really excited my students, until today, using the remove.bg site. I introduced Tara Martin’s #booksnaps to my readers using the Google apps options of Slides and Drawings. We began with a focus on our metacognition … what thoughts did you have while reading? I used our whole group informational texts that we’d analyzed throughout this week and had my students find a page, section, paragraph, etc. that affected their thinking the most. We followed the procedures for a typical #booksnap, which can be found here at Tara Martin’s site. However, instead of searching for emojis or using bitmojis (neither of which is completely appropriate for my students) I had my students take selfies of themselves using their webcams, trying to portray their emotions and feelings or thoughts while taking the picture. Then they used the remove.bg site to remove the background from their selfie and they had their own little picture of themselves, ready to be added to their slide and turned into a real-life “selfmoji’ or inserted onto a new background that related to their reading using a new Google Slide. We downloaded the slides as a jpeg or png file to add to our #booksnaps.

My fourth graders were in! In our excitement we played around a bit. (It was one of those moments their excitement just needed to be let it before they could focus on their actual task.) I’ll admit, I created a “selfie” with the president and first lady, I went to the Super Bowl, and my students put their faces on athletes, past presidents, video game characters, and one even floated in a pool of gold coins. The excitement was a bit out of control, but the ideas and creativity were endless. When it came time to respond to our reading, students were also excited to find creative ways to show their thinking, and for a minute, I’m pretty sure my classroom was magic. Everyone was working, thinking, collaborating, and sharing their thoughts about their reading in a way that I’ve never seen them before. They were genuinely excited to talk about their books. My teacher heart left school full and excited for next week.

Here are a couple of the photos I made while playing around, and an example of what one of my students made.

Now, the possibilities are great for how we could use this website in our writing. My students are currently working on a research PBL about the planets. Guess what their next background will be?