Lesson Plan

Open the Reading Door With Key Details (CCSS ELA RI)

Students will be able to understand and practice finding key details and writing a summary.
Dena G.
Classroom teacher
Tierra Bonita Elementary School
Poway, CA
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My Grades 4, 5
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Arts

Students will be able to...

  • Identify main idea  of a text
  • Determine key details to support the main idea
  • Write a summary about the text

This lesson is not meant to be done in one day, but over the course of writing/reading times. 

English Language Arts
Social Studies
Grades 3 - 6
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

  1. Create a room in Today's Meet for your students to access.
  2. Have your students copy and access the site on Today's Meet.
  3. Talk about what a key detail is and how it helps you understand and describe something.
  4. Today students are going to play a game and use key details to give clues about an object for another student to guess.
  5. Pick a student to be "It." This student should be able to see the Today's Meet Stream as it happens.
  6. Select a topic (object or detail) from your classroom (The flag, a trinket, mug, or current topic of study, "Boston Tea Party"). Do not let the "It" student see or know what it is.
  7. Using Today's Meet, the rest of the class begins posting key details about the topic.
  8. The "It" student gets three guesses to get the topic, which you can call the "Main Idea."
  9. Have the "It" student explain what details led him/her towards  identification.
  10. If time, do with different students and objects.

2 Direct Instruction

Readworks is a site with a variety of reading comprehension information and passages (See examples in the "Guided Practice" portion, for additional website resources.  You can find any non-fiction article for your grade level to use for this part of the lesson.

I selected, "A Hole in the Planet" passage about a scientist's mission to locate a potential hole in the Earth's crust.

  1. Show this passage (or another of your chosing) on an LCD or overhead screen, allowing all students to see it.
  2. Read the passage together.
  3. Discuss the main idea (What is the overall focus of the article?  What is the author writing mostly about?).  In the aforementioned passage, it's that the "Team of scientists will be researching an area where the earth's crust is missing."
  4. List this main idea somewhere.
  5. Explain  the key details support the main idea.
  6. Have students share what they think are three main key details and highlight/mark text (12 scientists traveled in March 2007 aboard a ship, The hole is 2,300 miles from the Canary Islands, etc.)
  7. Explain that the main idea will now turn into the Topic Sentence to the paragraph.  The key details will now become supporting sentences to that topic sentence. 

3 Guided Practice

  1. Select a short web-article of your choosing.  Great sites are Newsela (www.newsela.com) or DOGO News (www.dogonews.com). One students could read in about ten minutes or less. 
  2. Import the article and share it with your class within Subtext. 
  3. Have students use the highlighting tool and use "blue" to underline 3 key details.  
  4. When most students are finished, have a class discussion about the main idea and arrive at a common understanding. 
  5. Have students go back to the original article and see if their key details fit under the main idea. 
  6. Give students time to turn their main idea and key details into a paragraph.
  7. Share out the paragraphs. 


4 Independent Practice

You will have students complete similar steps to the Guided Practice portion. This time, they will do a different, longer article and complete the activity on their own (If you have the subscription version of Subtext, you are able to do this entire portion within the "Assignment" feature). 

  1. Select and import a longer article and share it with your class within Subtext. 
  2. Have students use the highlighting tool and use a specific color to underline 3 key details.
  3. When completed, students will be writing their own summary paragraph.  The topic sentence will include the main idea and suppporting sentences, the key details.  
  4. Students can type up their paragraphs and share them in an Edmodo stream or directly with the teacher. 

5 Wrap-Up

Google Drive
Free, Paid

For a really collaborative experience, along with an article in Subtext, students can link writing in Google Drive.

1) You can create a small group in Subtext for partners and select an article for their bookshelf.

2) As partners read, they can add highlighting or comments about the text/main idea. Within Subtext, they can collaborate while writing annotations. 

3) Upon completion, students can collaboratively write their summary paragraph, taking turns writing one sentence at a time, until the paragraph is written. 

  A fun experience is to do this activity and have students not be able to talk or sit next to each other. 


Homework: Could include doing a similar activity at home where they post their paragraph within Edmodo and write comments to their classmates.