Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Paragraph Writing: Main Idea and Details

My third graders have been loving our Ancient Civilizations Unit. We have been working on identifying Main Idea and Details during our reading block so it seemed natural to transfer what we were learning into our Writing Block and integrate some Social Studies too.

Third graders need to know the different contributions the Ancient Greeks made in the areas of architecture, arts, government and sports. So I had them pick one of these areas and told them we were going to write a paragraph with what they knew. We had just studied this so it was pretty fresh and current. We started with a picture walk through our social studies book to get some visuals in our brains. They then decided on the main idea and picked four details to support that idea and recorded it on the main idea table (see below). It was the one we were using for our reading so they were familiar with the table idea.

I did end up differentiating for this lesson quite a bit. My struggling writers were called to me and we created a chart of this table together. We discussed together and I wrote it on the big chart and they recorded it on their paper. This allowed me to help them use this graphic organizer successfully plus I snuck in some reteaching of these Social Studies concepts and words!
My high achievers ended up doing extra research. We just learned the basics about the Greek government so my skilled writers researched more about this topic to get more interesting details to include in the paragraph. This worked great and they ended up teaching this info to the rest of the class.
From the main idea table it was easy to form the paragraph. We revised and targeted the organization trait and then edited for spelling.
Our final step was creating the pop ups to go along with the writing. Here are the final products: My kids said it was 3D and thought that was cool!

Everyone ended up with a well formed paragraph and product they were proud to have hanging in the hallway:

I like the idea of these pop ups and they can be used for many different ideas. They work great for story structure: background shows the setting, the characters go on the pop ups and they can write about the problem and solution in the paragraph.

Here is how I cut the papers. You really need to use cardstock paper if you want them to stay up. I simply fold the paper in half and make two cuts as shown below.

Then open and pull out the pop up. I cut the bottom of the paper close to the pop up so it stands up better when hung. The bottom is just the ground that the characters are standing on.

Here is the organizer I used for both reading and writing:

Main Idea Table
I'd love to hear your comments if you are going to try this activity. How else can we use this organizer and presentation idea?


  1. Those are fun!! Yeah, main idea is SOOO hard to teach! When I taught 3rd grade (for 7 years), I had so much fun with writing! Now in 2nd, we are still having A LOT of fun, but I forget how they can't go into depth like my 3rd graders could..lol. But that's ok, they're rising to it...they'll be ready for 3rd for sure! ha!

    ♥ Jen Ross
    The Teachers' Cauldron

  2. I LOVE the pop out writing! We don't teach ancient civilizations but I could use that idea for anything!

    Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher


  3. Love it! I'll be finishing up my unit in January and this idea could work for Greece, Rome or Mali!