Central Idea or Supporting Detail?

Editor's note: Do your students get tripped up when it comes to central ideas and supporting details? If so, you will love this idea from Scope advisor and 6th grade ELA teacher Joanne Canizaro.


What you’ll need:

Citing text evidence, identifying central idea and supporting details, speaking and listening

Three class periods (60 minutes each)


NOTE: By the time we do this lesson, we have already read and discussed the article as a class.


DAY 1: Respond to the Close-Reading Questions


  • Divide students into small groups and assign each group at least one section of the article. (I sometimes give a group more than one section if the sections are short.)
  • Distribute the Close-Reading Questions to each student. Students will return to these questions on Day 2 for the peer review.

NOTE: I create my own close-reading questions for this lesson, but you can pull some or all of the questions from Scope's Central Ideas and Details activity and Finding and Using Text Evidence activity.

  • Have each group answer the questions for their assigned section(s).

Differentiation Tip: Have struggling students write a brief summary of their section before they answer the questions.

  • Have each group present their answers to the class. (This helps the teacher assess whether the groups are on the right track with their answers.)



DAY 2: Find the central idea and supporting details


  • Reconvene the small groups and pass out the Central Idea and Supporting Details grid
  • Explain to students that they should write the title of their assigned section at the top of the page, the central idea of the section in the middle box, and the supporting details in the surrounding boxes. (If tablets or computers are available, you can create the template as a PowerPoint or Google slide and have students share the slide(s) among the group members so they can work on it together.)
  • Tell students that the supporting details should be arranged in an organized way, such as chronologically, sequentially, etc.

NOTE: This step may not take an entire class period to complete.

Here's an example of a filled-out grid:




DAY 3: Present and peer review


  • Provide each group with a copy of the Presentation Rubric. Students should also have their copy of the text and the Close-Reading Questions from Day 1 in front of them.
  • In section order, have each group present its completed Central Idea and Supporting Details grid. If using paper, use a document camera to project the grid.
  • During each presentation, the rest of the class should assess the presentation according to the Presentation Rubric and check off the close-reading questions as they are answered.
  • After each presentation, invite the rest of the class to ask questions or provide comments or suggestions. Students often have questions about why a particular piece of supporting evidence was chosen. They also like to offer suggestions for other pieces of evidence the group could have used. I encourage students to pose their questions and give their feedback in a respectful and encouraging way, like this:

        I noticed that the box on the right states . . .

        I wonder why you chose to . . .

        We would like to suggest that you . . .

        We reread the section and thought you could . .

Here's a photo of one student presentation:







Joanne Canizaro is a Scope advisor and a 6th grade ELA teacher at Hopatcong Middle School in Hopatcong, New Jersey.


1 Comment
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I love this idea! I also have my students turn the headings into questions. When they can answer the question, those answers are the supporting details.