Topic, Main Idea, and Details

ice cream sundae

The three dreaded pieces of a reading assignment to any student. Most students take a stab at a word in the first sentence to find topic and main idea and then pick something from the middle for a detail. There’s a 50/50 chance they will get partial points using that strategy. Well, hold on to your hats; I have a better way.

I attended another professional development class from my favorite source for good reading strategies– KUCRL. This time, I got some tips for helping students identify topic, main, idea, and detail.

  1. To find the topic of a paragraph or article, use the sentence prompt, “This paragraph/article is about _____.” The one or two words that complete the sentence is the topic. If a student is still lost, the topic will often appear in the title and/or first or last sentence of the paragraph, so look there while using the prompt.
  2. To find a main idea within a paragraph, locate the topic first. Then ask yourself, “What does this paragraph tell me about the topic?” Insert your topic at the end of the question. The answer to your question is the main idea.
  3. To find important details, use the main idea. Ask yourself, “What is specific information about the main idea?” Insert your main idea at the end of the question. The ideas that answer the question are the key details.

Read the paragraph and give it a try.

perfect ice cream sundae paragraphTopic: This paragraph is about ice cream sundaes.

Main Idea: What does this paragraph tell me about ice cream sundaes? This paragraph talks about sundae ingredients. The main idea is ice cream sundae ingredients.

Details: What is specific information about the ingredients? Key details are ice cream flavors, sauces, and different kinds of toppings.

These prompts help with standardized test preparation for reading comprehension. They also work well when looking for the important “stuff” while reading textbooks. Finally, this is a great way to pick out the essential information in any non-fiction reading assignment. It provides a structured way for students to weed out non-important details and zero in on the meat of the text in order to take notes for research projects or preparing for class discussion and tests.

If you are looking for teaching materials that help with these skills, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to purchase activities that reinforce reading skills like topic, main idea, details, and paraphrasing.

American Girl Birthday

American Girl Party Tent

Well, you had to know this day was coming. Miss Priss asked for an American Girl birthday party, and TheRoomMom complied. We have attended a few AG birthday parties recently, and we needed a new spin to the theme. I was already working on the American Girl camping supplies, so we opted for a backyard American Girl campout birthday (sleepover NOT included– I did recognize my limits on this one).

American Girl Party Invitation

The Invitation

I know it is popular to use Paperless Post or Evites right now, but I really like paper party invitations delivered via snail mail. There were several fun camping party choices on Etsy. I ordered through a store called Memories Too. The store owner e-mailed a JPG file to me after about 4 business days. I had one edit, which she turned around in a few hours. I uploaded the image to FedEx Office and had the invitation printed in color on white cardstock. I found plain pink envelopes at a local paper store.

The invitation asked guests to bring a doll or stuffed friend with them to the party, so they would have a camping buddy.

The Activities

When guests arrived, they received a doll sleeping bag that had a name tag with a number. We grouped the guests based on the tag numbers on the sleeping bags and rotated the party guests through three stations. That kept all of the guests spread out for most of the party and gave everyone something to do until it was time for cake.

American Girl Dolls Camping

  • Station 1— We set up 3 camping tents in the backyard. This group played in the tents with the dolls and the sleeping bags. TheRoomDad monitored this area and provided some monster invasions from time to time.

American Girl Party Activity Bug Jar

  • Station 2— This group searched for small twigs in the yard then used the twigs to make small bug jars and marshmallows on a stick. I had a table with the supplies as well as my regular babysitter to run this station. My sitter showed everyone how to set up the bug jars, make the fake marshmallows, and she monitored supplies. For full bug jar and marshmallow instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.

American Girl Party Activity Campfire

  • Station 3— This group made a doll sized campfire. I ran this station, and it was set up in a similar way to the bug jar area. For full campfire instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.

Each guest had a paper plate with her name on it. When the child finished a craft, she put her item on the paper plate. We set the plates to the side, so parents could easily carry the crafts to the trash can at their home home at the end of the party.

American Girl Mini Brownie Bites

The Cake

Miss Priss wanted chocolate! We ordered a mini chocolate fudge cake from the grocery store. I call these “smash cakes” and see this mini size at first birthday parties a lot. We put candles on the cake and sang, but we did not cut the smash cake. Instead, guests ate mini brownie bites that had been decorated with pink and white flowers.

The Food

Keeping with the doll theme, I tried to do all mini or bite sized food. After we sang, the kids went through a buffet line and picked up the little snacks and brownie bites. It was all finger food, so it eliminated a need for any forks or spoons.

IMG_3918

  • Pigs-in-a-blanket— Basically, a mini hot dog. I used 3 rolls of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and 2 packages of Lit’l Smokies, which yields about 60 pigs. I cut each crescent roll into 3 triangles and then wrap a triangle around a Lit’l Smokie. I follow the baking instructions on the Pillsbury Crescent Roll package.

Mini Dill Dip Party Food

  • Dill Dip— This is Miss Priss’ favorite snack, and one of my signature recipes. I purchased 1-oz plastic shot glasses at the party store and put a dollop of dill dip at the bottom of the cup. We stacked mini carrot sticks, mini celery sticks, and mini red pepper slices in the cups, so they were ready to serve. Click here for the Dill Dip and Chex Mix Recipes.

IMG_3902

  • Chex Mix— We saw mini pink popcorn boxes at our independent party store, but I also considered using Wilton mini cake boxes from Michael’s Crafts to hold the snack mix. I did a variation of one of my Chex Mix recipes. This version has popcorn. Click here for the Dill Dip and Chex Mix Recipes.

Marshmallow Smore Party Food

  • S’More on a Stick— We used brightly colored cocktail sticks and stabbed marshmallows. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and plain Hershey milk chocolate bars in a double boiler. I crushed graham crackers and placed the crumbs in a flat bowl. I dipped the marshmallow in the melted chocolate, and Miss Priss rolled the chocolate end of the marshmallow in the graham cracker. I must say, these were delicious and much safer than having 17 six and seven year olds standing around a fire pit.

The Party Favors

Guests took home the bug jar and campfire crafts. They also took home the doll sleeping bag. If you have a sewing machine, the sleeping bags are easy to make. However, had I known I would need 17 doll sleeping bags, I might have rethought my decision to have these as party favors. For full doll sleeping bag instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.

American Girl Party Favor Sleeping BagsI am exhausted and am considering canceling Halloween. Anyone with me?

American Girl Goes Camping

american girl camp out

Miss Priss ran out of sleeping space for her American Girls, so I offered to make some sleeping bags. Well, if you make an American Girl a sleeping bag, she will need a campfire to go with it. If you have a campfire, you will want to toast marshmallows. If you toast marshmallows, bugs might show up for a snack. If bugs show up, you will need a bug jar…

Sleeping Bags

AG doll in sleeping bagMaterials

  • cotton fabric
  • coordinating fleece
  • reversible ribbon
  • sewing machine

Directions

  • Cut one piece of 30″ x 21″ cotton and one piece of 30″ x 21″ fleece.
  • Pin the two pieces of fabric together. The cotton should have the wrong side facing out.

AG sleeping bag pinning fabric

  • Sew the two pieces of fabric together about 3/8″ from the edge. Leave an opening along one long side.

AG sleeping bag opening

  • Turn the fabric right side out through the opening. Push the corners out with a finger, so they are square. Fold the fabric in half.

AG sleeping bag inside out

AG sleeping bag sew closed

  • Cut a piece of ribbon about 30″ and fold the ribbon in half. Insert the folded end of the ribbon into the fabric opening and secure the ribbon with a pin.

AG sleeping bag add ribbon tie

  • Pin the fabric along the edge that has the ribbon and halfway up the open side.
  • Sew the edge with the ribbon and the partial side together.

Campfire and Toasting Marshmallows

AG fire pit with marshmallowsMaterials

  • CDs
  • Elmer’s glue
  • potting soil
  • stones
  • small twigs
  • tissue paper in fire colors cut into small squares (2″ x 2″?)
  • white Crayola Model Magic sculpting clay

Directions

  • Cover the surface of the CD with glue.

AG fire pit glue

  • Sprinkle potting soil on top and shake off the excess.

AG fire pit add dirt

  • Drizzle more Elmer’s glue around the edge of the CD. Add rocks around the edge. Rocks that are about the width of a quarter work well.

AG fire pit add rocks

  • Collect small twigs from your yard and break into small pieces (maybe 2″).
  • Drizzle glue around the center hole of the CD and stack twigs. Drizzle a little more glue and add sticks until it looks like a campfire.

AG fire pit add sticks

  • Roll the squares of tissue paper into a flame shape and insert between the twigs. Drizzle glue here and there as needed. Let campfire dry overnight.

AG campfire with tissue flames

  • Roll a pea sized piece of Model Magic between your fingers into a ball. Flatten the top and bottom, so it is cylinder shaped. Push onto a twig. Let dry overnight.

AG marshmallows

Bug Jars

Materials

bug jar supplies

Directions

  • Find a small twig and break it to the height of the jar (about 1″). 
  • Secure 3-4 mini pom poms to the twig with the glue dots. This is the caterpillar.
  • Put the caterpillar on the twig in the jar and add a sequin leaf, small torn pieces of tissue paper, and maybe another small twig.

AG mini big jarsI know the scale is not perfect, but the bug jars are our favorite American Girl accessory right now. What is your favorite American Girl craft? Don’t forget to go back and look at the American Girl CafeAmerican Girl Sweet Shop, or American Girl School before making a decision!

AG fire pit bug jars marshmallows

It’s a Wrap

wrap sandwiches

I seem to spend a lot of time posting about school lunch for kids and teachers. It is not because I enjoy packing lunch. In fact, it is the opposite. I dread making school lunches. Currently, I have TheRoomDad on lunch packing duty, and my mornings are much more efficient and stress free.

One favorite lunch staple at TheRoomMom’s house is the classic wrap sandwich. I made them a few times last year for Miss Priss’ kindergarten snack duty. I like them because they can be made the night before, and they do not get soggy in the refrigerator overnight. We stuff with a variety of fillings to satisfy adult and child eaters, and they are not too unhealthy.

turkey wrap ingredients

Ingredients

  • large flour tortillas
  • thinly sliced turkey, ham, salami or whatever deli meat you prefer
  • cream cheese, softened
  • shredded lettuce (optional)
  • grated carrots (optional)
  • red pepper strips (optional)

salami wrap ingredients

Directions

  • Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on one side of a tortilla. Cover the entire surface.
  • Cover the cream cheese with a layer of your deli meat of choice.
  • Near one edge of the tortilla, sprinkle a line of lettuce, carrot, red pepper strips, or whatever veggies you choose to use.
  • From the end with the sliced vegetables, roll the tortilla.
  • Slice into 5 pieces. (I discard the ends– and by discard, I mean TheRoomDad eats them.)

IMG_3836

The Miss Priss Special

  • cream cheese, turkey, sliced red pepper

The Mr. Star Wars Special

  • cream cheese, salami, shredded lettuce

TheRoomMom Special

  • cream cheese, turkey, shredded lettuce, shredded carrot, sliced red pepper

TheRoomDad Special

  • cream cheese, salami, sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, shredded carrot, sliced red pepper, a few shakes of black pepper

Helping Verbs Help

helping verb list

Around this time every year, I require my 4th grade students to memorize the helping verbs. I have a specific order for the 23 verbs that fits perfectly to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. I usually call some of my former students from across the hall to demonstrate This Helping Verb Song. My former students never fail to provide an excellent demonstration. Once the song is committed to memory, it will be burned into your brain for the rest of your life. Memorizing helping verbs aids students with a variety of language arts tasks.

Helping Verbs are Tricky

  • Many of the verbs on the helping verb list are difficult. They are the verbs that don’t sound like verbs– the being verbs are the main culprit. Often, words from the helping verb list appear alone in a sentence. In that situation, the helping verb IS the verb. It is easy to identify because of the memorized list of verbs. I can’t visualize a person “is-ing”, but I will mark it because it is from the helping verb list. Just say the list in your head every time you look at a sentence to check for the tricky verbs.

linking verbs

  • Locating these tricky verbs will be useful when students are working with linking verbs.

Past, Present, and Future

  • Helping verbs create past, present, and future. In order to identify verbs in sentences, students will need to find the main verb and any helping verbs that go with the main verb. This will be called the complete verb or verb phrase; it’s part of the predicate (fancy word for action part of the sentence). Teachers love to ask students to find the complete verb in sentences. 

verb phrase

  • Students should find the main verb in a sentence. Students should then recite the helping verb list in their head and look for any helping verbs in the sentence. If they see one (or two), group it with the main verb and label the complete verb.
  • WARNING: Not is NOT a verb, but it lurks about in the middle of helping verbs and their main verb partner. In the sentence, “I do not enjoy grammar,” do enjoy is the complete verb. Not is an adverb.

Passive Voice

  • Teachers want students to eliminate passive voice in papers, yet students rarely know how to do it. Have a student circle all verbs from the helping verb list that appear in an essay. Then, revise the paper taking out half of the circled verbs. This tip fixes passive voice in many cases without really knowing it. Ultimately, we want students to avoid passive voice on purpose, but this is a great work around until a student has more experience avoiding passive voice.

passive voiceGrammar is a frustrating subject for students. There are exceptions to every rule. Students who have some reliable tools to help during confusing grammar situations do better. For some other grammar tips for students, visit my Previous Grammar Post. I also have grammar resources available at my teacher store. CLICK HERE to purchase great grammar materials that students really get.