Digital Skills: Developing Online Assessment Skills in Everyday Classroom Activities Western Reserve Public Media
Determining Main Idea and Supporting Details

Note: Integrating the use of standard word processing editing tools, students have an interactive way to examine text. The icons for these standard tools are fairly the same across the various softwares. This example is a framework that can be adapted to your grade and topic. The following lesson chose non-fiction, this is for example purposes.

I can:

I can identify the central idea of the text

I can distinguish between textual facts and opinions

I can identify supporting details of the central idea of the text

Tech Skills:
  • Text editing: highlight and strikethrough

Materials and Resources:
  • Paper copy of non-fiction text of your choosing

  • All students should have two highlighters and pencil

  • Online document for students to highlight. One for each student.

Grade Level:
  • all grades

Subject Area:
  • Language Arts


Activity 1

This activity is great if students have not had much experience using word processing and are slowly making the transition. Older students would not need this step.

  1. Nonfiction passages are jammed with information.

  2. Tell the students you are going to have them differentiate important text from irrelevant.

  3. Review with students criteria for making these determinations ;read the whole text, determine main topic, big ideas, ignore the little details, re-read, look for queues in the text style (bold, italics, underline, section headers/titles, etc.

  4. Discuss that finding important information in a text helps you, as a reader, to understand the text. Remind students that the title of the reading passage and any subsection titles within it should be guiding them in what important details to be looking for as they read.

  5.  Discuss the difference between interesting details and important details. Ask students to brainstorm characteristics of each.

  6.  Hand out a hard copy of a brief nonfiction paragraph

  7. Students will use one highlighter and a pencil.

  8. Using their highlighter students will select important information

  9. Using the pencil students and cross off irrelevant information.

  10. Either conference with students or share some class examples to help reinforce determining what is considered important and what is irrelevant.


Activity 2

  1. Students will open document

  2. Students will highlight the central idea with one color using the highlight tool

  3. With a different color students will highlight facts and details/ideas that support the central idea

  4. Using the strikethrough option students will strikethrough text that denotes opinion or irrelevant facts that do not support the central idea


Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text


Supplementary Resources:

You can use highlight tools in infinite way.

  • Highlight parts of speech

  • Highlight Topic Sentence

  • Strikethrough information that does not belong

  • Have students “be the editor”. With an online or physical dictionary have students proofread to correct spelling, and look for and correct grammar. Making the student the editor, especially for spelling (no spellcheck) they naturally get experience inserting the cursor, add, delete ,backspace, delete, etc.

  • For Google Users-installing the add on "highlight tool" makes highlighting not only easier but more organized.
    This handy highlight tool allows the user to assign colors to topics. The add on when used, is easily acceptable on the right hand side of the document, the student, after assigning color(s) to topic(s), simply clicks on the appropriate highlighter then click and drag.
Follow Us on Facebook Facebook | Twitter Twitter | YouTube YouTube | E-Newsletters E-Newsletters | | Digital Skills Credits | Digital Skills Home | Be More PBS

Western Reserve Public Media® • P.O. Box 5191; 1750 Campus Center Drive; Kent, OH 44240-5191 • 330-677-4549 or 1-800-554-4549

Copyright©Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. All rights reserved.