Main Idea, Topic Sentences, and Social Studies...Oh my!

Sometimes, when one is teaching, all of the stars align and everything just seems to mesh really well.  All of the topics connect, the kids see the connection, and the day wraps up into a nice little package.


Today, was one of those times.  (THANK GOODNESS!)

After our lesson this morning about finding the main idea and all of the supporting details in a paragraph (we used our basal for the reading passage), I followed with a lesson on topic sentences in paragraphs.  We discussed over and over again how the topic sentence must tell the reader what the entire paragraph is about.  It must basically be the main idea of the paragraph.  After several samples, and trials on their own part, the students seemed to get it. 

So this afternoon, while doing a general overview of Native American culture, I decided to use these cards that I had in one of my many Lakeshore purchases.  On them, there is a picture of an artifact, and some facts about said artifact.  We discussed how those facts are basically supporting details and that they needed a topic sentence.  Using one of the cards as an example, I modeled how this could be done.

I then broke the students into 9 groups (I had 9 cards).  Each card was attached to a brown paper bag.  The task of the group was to read the supporting details and create a topic sentence that they thought would match the details.  I gave them 5 minutes to do this.  Once the 5 minutes were up, they rotated to another bag and did it again.  At the end, there were 9 different topic sentences in each bag for us to review and talk about.

That was the idea at least.  This was REALLY hard for them.  The kids had no problem understanding what the main idea of everything was....but putting it into a sentence, that didn't basically just copy one of the supporting details, proved to be quite the challenge.  They really did try, and as the rotations went on the students got better at it, but I know that I still need to work on this difficult skill for sure.   I did learn a lot about what they *thought* they were supposed to do and what they *thought* topic sentences were.  I have a pretty good idea where my lessons tomorrow will go now. 

As for the closure on this lesson, tomorrow I am going to pull out some of the better examples and we will discuss why they are true topic sentences.  We then may even write some paragraphs with them.

All in all, I think the idea of this went over well.  The kids had fun, they were discussing the reading, using academic vocabulary, and generally learning without really knowing it ;)  A pretty successful day if I do say so myself.

What is something you do to teach main idea, topic sentences, supporting details, and the like?


  1. What a great lesson! I love how you were able to tie in social studies into the reading instructions!

    Fun in Room 4B

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I try...sometimes the lessons just mesh together so nicely :)

  2. Love, Love, LOve! Great use of the Lakeshore Materials!

  3. Brilliant idea! I love that you tied the reading and writing together with a social studies emphasis too! I am ALWAYS looking for ways to slip social studies into other things I teach.

  4. I LOVE how you had the cards attached to a bag, then the students placed the topic sentence in the bag when they were done. GENIUS! We integrated our science into our language block today when we wrote a descriptive sentence about cells to model one of the work on writing strategies in the daily 5. It's the only way it will all get done. ;) Hope you're having a GREAT week (we're more than half way through!!!!)

    Runde's Room

    1. I hard to get it all done! Seriously we need more time in the day!

  5. What a great idea! I would've never thought to use the Lakeshore materials like that. I'll have to remember this lesson next year -- we already finished our Native Americans unit -- or maybe I'll use it to review later on. Very resourceful!

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. what a great idea!! Ilove it...need to find something for my kiddos

  7. It really is a great idea! How simple, yet effective. I can see using the paper bag strategy for many writing activities. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I absolutely love it. Writing is very difficult to teach, just because there isn't really a curriculum to follow. I love this and I will share with my team. Thanks😘


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