Just like many fourth graders, determining the main idea and identifying supporting details is a “heavy hitter” review topic in my classroom right now. My students can easily identify “right there” main ideas in informational text, but when it comes to inferring, our skills are much less consistent. As a teacher, I struggle with making my writing lessons compliment my reading test prep review. Unfortunately, at this time of year, writing often gets put on the back burner to make more time for test practice and review before state testing begins. I’ve found what I think is a great solution to these two problems.
This project works great as a quick review of the purpose of supporting details and inferring main idea. I use this Google Slides activity in small group first to introduce it and give the students a chance to read the supporting details. I even have a differentiated version for my 2nd and 3rd grade level readers. You can get both projects here. So, we read the details and then review the process of determining main idea and the role of the supporting details. I tell my students to think about that strategy while rereading to themselves. Right away the students are able to sort the supporting details by their topic. The hard part is figuring out the point the author is trying to make based on those details. This part of the task requires much more in-depth analysis of the given supporting details. How are they related? What is the purpose of the language used? These questions lead to the implied main idea, which the students must write as a leading sentence to the paragraph they are writing based on their details. This also, of course, to finish the “hamburger paragraph”, leads to also writing a closing sentence for their paragraph. And there you go, reading and writing combined. I like this activity because the reading is short and quick, and the activity is more focused on the skill and strategy of determining the implied main idea. It’s challenging and to the point, exactly what the students need for remediation. And, to make it even better, I add the challenge of creating text features such as diagrams, charts, graphics, etc. that will clarify the paragraph’s meaning and main idea. My students are so engaged by this part of the activity that the demanding critical thinking and creativity required to complete it isn’t a struggle. They are excited to dig deeper and challenge themselves. If you’d like to try this with your own students, just click this link to get the two leveled projects for your own classroom.