Reading – How to Teach Supporting Details to Children

Note: Before one begins showing children how to pick out supporting details in an article make sure the child understands what “Main Idea” (Topic Sentence) is all about.

Begin by explaining to the child:

The topic sentence of a passage or paragraph tells us what it is about. Have them write a topic sentence about their favorite subject. (Note: One of my students chose to write a letter to his Congressman about a political issue that interested him (unusual but effective). As a “hands on learner” not many school studies interested this child, but he sure got into this activity because he chose to write about his passion. Because my teaching adjusted to his natural tendencies, he grasped the idea very quickly, and it was lots of fun for both of us).

Next point out to the child that if that is all we say it does not say enough. Discuss possible ramifications of not saying any more than this one sentence. Continue explaining that this sentence does not give us all the facts and details to support their statement. Details are the bits of information that support the topic sentence. They give the reader a clear picture by describing how something looks, sounds, smells, tastes, or feels. They help others to understand the main idea or topic sentence.

Activity (adjust to the child’s level of capability):

Now help the child write down some details that might support their topic sentence. (see example outline below). Once they have completed their outline (or list for young children) have them write their article. (Note: for younger children I do not correct spelling, or grammatical errors while teaching this lesson because it discourages them, and defeats my purpose.)

Once they have completed their article have them circle the Main Idea, and then underline the supporting details for each paragraph. As a follow up, have the child circle main ideas and underline supporting details with their favorite articles or stories.

It is always important to give immediate feedback to the child. Don’t wait until the next day after mistakes are repeated and reinforced in several activities. (This is not normally possible for teachers who have large classes, but parents can give considerable help when they understand what to do. Try sharing this article with them.) Point out the child’s mistakes, but place most of your emphases on their successes. I like to put a star or a positive comment by the correct answers, and write “redo this” by the incorrect ones. children crave attention, and you want to make sure they are craving success rather than failure.

Example For Parents/ Educators:

(Main Idea Of This Passage) How To Teach Supporting Details To Children

(Main idea of the first paragraph)

I. Begin by explaining to the child:

(Facts)

A. The main idea of a passage or paragraph tells us what it is about

B. Have them write a topic sentence about their favorite subject.

(Main idea of of second paragraph)

II. This one sentence (Main idea of passage) does not give us all the facts and details to support your statement.

(Facts)

A. Details are the bits of information that support the main idea

B. They help others to understand the main idea or topic sentence

(Main idea of third paragraph)

III. Activity (adjust to child’s level of capability)

A. help the child write down some details that might support their topic sentence

B. have them write their article.

(Main idea of fourth paragraph)

IV. Once they have completed their article have them:

(Facts)

A. circle the main idea

B. underline supporting details

C. have the child circle main ideas and supporting details with their favorite short stories or articles.

(Main idea of fifth paragraph)

V. Children crave attention, and you want to make sure they are craving success rather than failure.

(Facts)

A. It is always important to give immediate feedback to the child

B. Point out their mistakes, but place most of your emphases on their successes.

Notes:

1. I did not add numerals under any of the letters in the outline because we are only seeking to teach supporting details of the main ideas within this lesson.

2. In the Public School System these things (elements of reading) are taught to first graders. But it is not usually necessary or advisable to teach these things so early in the Home School environment unless circumstances require it. For young children, I prefer using the method explained in a previous article titled How to Teach Reading Comprehension.

3. Younger children would not be expected to put their ideas in an outline format. They would make a list or a diagram in place of an outline.

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