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        Blue Ribbon Readers: Determining Important Ideas

        In this WPSU lesson Determining Important Ideas, elementary students explore how to become better readers through the identification of main ideas, supporting details, and author’s message. The lesson is part of the Blue Ribbon Readers collection.

        Lesson Summary


        In this lesson, students explore how to become better readers through the identification of main ideas, supporting details, and author’s message. First, a teacher read-aloud inspires a class discussion that focuses on prioritizing information so that it makes better sense to the reader. Students then participate in a shared reading that allows them to again use the process of identifying important information. Finally, they extend their understanding through an online interactive activity.

        Content Objectives

        1. Students will identify main ideas, supporting details, and author’s messages in text
        2. Students will sort details of text to show levels of importance

        Grade Level: K-5

        Multimedia Resources

        1. Blue Ribbon Readers: The Hamburger Game Interactive

        2. Blue Ribbon Readers: Important Ideas Handout Document


        • A book of your choice (e.g. Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z. Guiberson)
        • Important Ideas Handout: Word Document
        • Online Interactive Activity “The Hamburger Game”


        PART I: Introducing the Strategy

        1. Discuss with students their prior knowledge of nonfiction text. Typical responses should include (or be guided to): gives true information, etc. Ask students to remember some nonfiction text they have read. Write the responses on the board. Guide discussion so that you talk about how knowing each of the items written was most likely the one important thing they learned from that text. Talk about how the most important part of what we read is the main idea. Also discuss how the other facts in the text serve to back up, or support, that main idea and are called supporting details. Explain that knowing how to pick out the main idea and supporting details gives us a purpose for reading and leads us to having a better understanding of what we are reading.
        2. Introduce the nonfiction book, e.g. Cactus Hotel. Look at the cover and pictures, make some predictions about topic, setting, and events. Read the story aloud to the students. (It may be helpful if the book had been scanned to a computer and projected so that the students can see the text and pictures.)
        3. After reading the story, talk about how this nonfiction book is designed to give us information. Have the students identify what they learned from the story and write the information on the board. Once all major pieces of information have been identified, ask students what they have in common. (All have to do with the cactus being a giver and receiver in relation to its environment.) Discuss that this one piece of information is what the author wants us to learn from reading this book. Look back to the story information written on the board. Ask the students to decide if each piece serves to support the main idea we have identified. (It does.)

        PART II: Review and Practice

        1. Hand out the Important Ideas Information worksheet. Read passages aloud, work together to identify the main idea, supporting details, and author’s message. On this handout, it should be mentioned that many times the main idea is the first or last thing we read. Depending on the students’ level, the teacher can tie in topic and concluding sentences.
        2. Review the meaning of the terms “main ideas” and “supporting details.” Recall Cactus Hotel and other nonfiction texts that have been read.

        PART III: Incorporating the Online Activity/Checking for Understanding

        1. Have students work in centers that include practicing with the online Hamburger activity, reading a short story on their level and determining main idea and supporting details, and working with the teacher on the same so that the teacher can assess student progress using this strategy.


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