Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Using a Puzzle to Teach Main Idea and Details

Teaching main idea and details can be a difficult concept for younger students to grasp. Two years ago, I found this great idea of using a puzzle to do so. Basically, you compare the main idea to the "whole picture" of the puzzle and the details to the individual "puzzle pieces." When you put the puzzle pieces (details) together, you create the whole picture (main idea). After using this concrete example of a puzzle to teach main idea and details over the years, I have seen my most struggling students have that "aha!" moment.

Thus, when I started to teach main idea in my classroom in small group two weeks ago, I pulled my 100-piece shark puzzle out of the closet. Sharks are always a huge hit, and my students were eating it up. They were able to tell me that the "whole picture" was of a shark and that the pieces were the details. However, they really, really, REALLY wanted to build the puzzle. Now you know how precious small group time is during reading workshop, so I couldn't very well have my students build the ONE HUNDRED-piece puzzle. But this got me thinking... Why couldn't I create my own puzzle that my students could build and would ultimately reinforce the concept of main idea and details? That got me thinking more... What if I created a graphic organizer to use with teaching main idea and details that was in itself a puzzle?

Probably because the shark puzzle went over so well, I got to work on an "Under the Sea" puzzle where each piece, or detail, would be a different sea creature. A blowfish, an octopus, a sea turtle, a sting ray, a hermit crab... I created a puzzle where there was only one creature per piece. See the finished product below!


I wrote the word "detail" on the back of each puzzle piece. When introducing this concept, I would show students one puzzle piece at a time, asking, "What is this a picture of?" (A starfish, a clam, an octopus...) I would then have students start to use the word "detail" as they were describing what they saw in each puzzle piece. Once students identified every detail, I would have them construct the puzzle and ask, "What is this a whole picture of?" (Creatures under the sea) THIS is the main idea!


Then, it was time to introduce the "Main Idea & Details" graphic organizer. Students used this directly after they built the puzzle. They chose the details (different sea creatures) that they wanted to write down, but they all had that the main idea was creatures under the sea. The beauty is, I can now use this graphic organizer with ANY TEXT, and it reinforces this minilesson!


To download this "Under the Sea" puzzle and "Main Idea & Details" graphic organizer FREEBIE, click on the picture below or HERE.


Also, you can use any puzzle to teach main idea and details, or you can even create your own! Portraits work really well. Simply cut out a picture from a magazine of a person's face and laminate. Then, cut your puzzle pieces out so that one facial feature is present in each piece. An eye, a nose, a mouth, an eyebrow, etc. Have your students identify those facial features as your details, and then once they put the puzzle together, they will see the main idea is of a person's face! You can even have your students design their own puzzle to use to teach a younger student. The possibilities are endless!

 photo Katie120_zps8b8e103b.jpg

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