EL Support Lesson

Main Idea and Supporting Details

Help your ELs learn how to identify the main idea and supporting details in a nonfiction text by using nouns and pronouns as guide words. It can be a stand-alone lesson or used as support to the lesson Explorer Letters.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theExplorer LettersLesson plan.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theExplorer LettersLesson plan.

Students will be able to explain the most important accomplishments of an explorer.


Students will be able to identify the topic of a sentence or text using nouns and pronouns as guide words and using a graphic organizer.

(1 minute)
Graphic Organizer Template: Frayer ModelGraphic Organizer Template: Bubble MapTennis: Nonfiction TextMain Idea: The Wright BrothersTeach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceNouns & Pronouns: Subject of a SentenceVocabulary Cards: Main Idea and Supporting DetailsGlossary: Main Idea and Supporting Details
  • Tell students that today they will be learning about main ideas and supporting details.
  • Write a student-friendly language objective on the board and do a choral read-aloud.
(10 minutes)
  • Introduce the vocabulary words for the lesson. First, display each vocabulary card. Then, read them aloud and have students repeat them.
  • Display a blank copy of the Frayer Model worksheet using a document camera. Model how to complete it with the word Main idea(what the text is mostly about) by filling out each section. Include the definition in students' home language (L1) if applicable. Keep this example posted for student reference.
  • Divide students into five small groups and assign each group a vocabulary word from the list (supporting details, subject, nonfiction, noun, pronoun). Hand out a blank Frayer Model to each student and tell them to complete it with their small group, using the word they were assigned. Provide each group with bilingual resources as they complete this activity (i.e., a bilingual dictionary and/or glossary).
  • Tell students that they will be sharing what they learn, so they must become an expert on their word.
  • When students have completed their Frayer Models, have students in each group count off (i.e., if there are six students in a group, they should count off to six). Then, tell students to split from their original group and meet with a new small group, based on their number. For example, all number ones would meet together. (Note: There should be five students in each group, each with a different vocabulary word.)
  • Instruct students to take turns teaching their word to their group members, using their Frayer Model as a teaching tool. Circulate and offer support as needed.
(9 minutes)
  • Explain that, in order to identify the main idea in a text, we must understand how nouns and pronouns relate to the topic of the text.
  • Display the worksheet Nouns & Pronouns: Subject of a Sentence. Complete the non-example activity in section one with student input. Once this section is complete, tell students that it can be used as a word bank.
  • Complete a word match as an example in section two. Then, have students turn and talk with a partner to match the remaining nouns and pronouns verbally. Call on students to share their answers.
  • Hand out the worksheet to students. Direct students to follow along as you read the instructions and examples aloud for section three. Then, instruct students to complete section three with their partner. Invite volunteers to share their answers with the class.
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out the nonfiction Tennis worksheet. Read the full text aloud as students follow along.
  • Instruct students to reread the first paragraph with a partner. Tell them to highlight the noun or pronoun that is the subject of each sentence as they read.
  • Ask students to call out the words they highlighted and write their responses on the board (i.e., tennis, tennis players). Point out that the nouns and pronouns they highlighted relate to tennis. Explain that this means the text is mainly about tennis.
  • Explain that some nonfiction texts, like this one, will have a title that relates to the main idea. But, students should not rely on the title to determine the main idea.
  • Display a teacher copy of the Bubble Map graphic organizer and hand out a copy to each student. Write "Main Idea: Tennis" in the centre circle and instruct students to copy it onto their own graphic organizers.
  • Tell students that they will be reading the text again and looking for details that support the main idea. Reread paragraph one aloud and model how students can find a supporting detail. For example, you could say, "After reading this paragraph, I learned that people need specific equipment to play tennis." Underline key words or phrases that relate to a supporting detail. Focus on just one supporting detail for the purpose of the example.
  • Write the supporting detail in one of the branches of the graphic organizer (i.e., to play tennis, you need shoes, a racket, and a court).
  • Tell students to read the rest of the text with their partner. Explain that one partner can read a paragraph aloud, and the second partner can read the other paragraph aloud. Allow students to use bilingual resources to look up unfamiliar words from the text during this exercise.
  • Remind students to look for one or two supporting details in each paragraph as they read, and underline the words or phrases that relate the supporting details in the text. Tell students to record the supporting details on their graphic organizer when they are done reading. (Note: Students do not need to fill in all the branches of the graphic organizer. Specify how many you would like them to fill in.)
  • Invite volunteers to share their completed graphic organizers with the class.


  • Pre-teach additional tier 1 vocabulary that students will see during the lesson, like "sneakers" and "court."
  • Allow beginning ELs to use bilingual resources to define new words throughout the lesson.
  • Strategically pair beginning ELs with more advanced ELs or students who speak the same home language.


  • Allow advanced ELs to utilize a glossary, thesaurus, and dictionary for help with unfamiliar words.
  • Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions. Ask advanced ELs to add on, rephrase, or clarify what their peers say in class discussion.
  • Have advanced ELs repeat instructions and key vocabulary, summarizing important information for the class.
  • Hand out the worksheet Main Idea: The Wright Brothers.
  • Read the instructions aloud. Then, do a choral reading of the text.
  • Instruct students to choose the main idea and supporting details from the bank of answer choices.
  • When students are finished with the worksheet, ask them to write their letter choice for the main idea on a personal whiteboard. Have students hold up their whiteboards and scan their responses to gauge understanding.
  • Then, tell students to write the three letter choices they picked as supporting details. Again, scan their responses to gauge understanding.
(3 minutes)
  • Support students in developing a simile for the concept of main idea and supporting details.
  • Provide one example simile and draw a picture to go with it (i.e., the main idea is like the trunk of a tree and the details are like the branches). Discuss with the class how this simile can help them think about and understand the concept.
  • Have students talk with a partner or small group to develop their own simile about main idea and supporting details. Provide a sentence frame, like "The main idea is like ____, and the supporting details are like ____."
  • Invite several students to share their similes.

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