Empowering Writers

November 2015 Lesson of the Month

Time marches on! Here we are already in November and the writing process should be in full swing! This month, the lessons will stress the reading/writing connection. Students will be creating a Cut and Paste activity, only they will be combining several skills to piece together the activity. It is important to emphasize elaboration using the five senses as a skill author’s practice. This foundational task will benefit your writers from now on!!!

Main Ideas, Supporting Details and Elaboration – these are challenging for students – whether in reading or writing. Our lesson this month will scaffold these skills, in a masterful, yet entertaining way. The lesson will involve some preparatory work on the teacher’s part, but the experience gained will be well worth the venture. Students will categorize details into Main Idea blurbs, identify the Main Idea, create meaningful Main Idea sentences, and practice using the Detail-Generating Questions, all while working in cooperative groups. And they will create a Cut and Paste activity – backwards!

Here’s what you’ll do:

Background Pages:

First, the teacher will create a collection of detail cards all relating to a single topic. For example, if the topic is dogs, the teacher searches for 3-5 picture details (using google images), each on a separate card, relating to several different Main Idea blurbs about dogs. Some suggested Main Ideas are:

  • Expenses of owning a dog
  • Breeds
  • Bad Habits
  • Tricks or What you Teach Dogs
  • Physical Characteristics
  • Service Dogs
  • Famous Dogs

Once a collection of picture details is gathered (3-5 for each Main Idea), adhere the images to cards, one detail per card.


The teacher may choose to use some or all of the suggested Main Ideas, or create new Main Ideas. For an added layer, depending on the sophistication of the lesson, add a few detail images that don’t fit any of the Main Idea blurbs.

Note: The dog theme is only a suggestion. There are many topics to choose from. Teachers may choose topics that fit a science of social studies theme they are currently studying or adapt from reading materials they are reading at the present time. For additional ideas, read through the prompts in Section 6 of your Expository/Opinion Guide. There are great ideas to choose from in these prompts.

Next, distribute the cards to class members, making sure that you pass out 3-4 details from each of the chosen Main Idea Blurbs. Have the students search for other students whose detail is covered under the same Main Idea. Try letting the students choose categories/details that fit together without your input. If they are unsure, ask them to look around at the groups already formed. Guide them to find the group that has related details, without disclosing the Main Idea, if possible.

After the groups are categorized according to similar details, have each bunch decide upon a Main Idea that umbrellas all of the details. Have them create a Main Idea Sentence using an appropriate Main Idea Sentence Starter and print these on a sentence strip.

On Another Day:

Students will reassemble into their respective groups. For each detail, have them add elaboration by applying the detail-generating questions, What Does It Look Like? and Why is it Important to the Main Idea?Have the cooperative groups write the elaborative details on sentence strips.

When the Main Ideas and Elaboration have been completed, have the students create the body of a piece by putting the sentences together, resembling a Cut and Paste Activity, celebrating the class for creating this piece from the inside out.

Save their Cut and Paste – Inside Out sample and as prescriptive lessons are added to their established skills, add the additional skills to complete this piece. (Introductions and Conclusions)

Teaching Tips:

Repeatedly practice the use of interesting sentence variety. Remember, to teach Flip the Sentence, Word Referents and Sentence Starters to negate redundant, boring vocabulary! During guided practice, continuously prompt students to add powerful vocabulary, flip sentences and add word referents or sentence starters as needed.

Use google images and picture prompts with students to generate ideas. Visual clues will help students add detail that would otherwise be neglected. They know more than they can articulate – visual clues along with detail-generating questions trigger responses and enhance elaboration.