Identifying Themes and Supporting Details in Writing

Identifying Themes and Supporting Details in Writing


This lesson can be used by adult learners to gain experience in identifying the strength of themes in writing passages.  Upon conclusion of the lesson students will be able to not only identify the theme of an piece of writing but also key details used to support the author’s argument.

Primary Users

This lesson is intended for adult learners seeking knowledge and growth in reading and writing which will enhance their ability to complete problem solving and higher-order thinking activities in their daily lives.  

Educational Use


College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) Alignment

Level: D

Grade Level 6-8

Subject: English Language Arts and Literacy        

Domain or Strand Reading Informational Text/Reading Literature, 2

Standard Description: CCR Anchor 2: Determine themes or central ideas of a text; examine how ideas unfold as well as key supporting details



Material Type

Sample Document

Music Education Promotional Materials

Analysis Template

Learning Goals

The student will read persuasive/promotional material and identify the theme of the text and its supporting details.


Theme, supporting details, main idea, introduction, body, conclusion,

Time Required for Lesson

30 minutes

Prior Knowledge

The student should have experience identifying the theme or main idea (and supporting details) of short informational works.  

Required Resources

Information Sheet (with definitions and guided literature example)

Reflection Template

Lesson Author and License

Jessica Weingart

Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license


Learning Objectives

The student will be able to identify the main idea in a short informational work.  The student will be able to identify 2-3 key details that support the main idea.  

Lesson Topics

-Reading for Information

-Critical Thinking

-Problem Solving

Context Summary

The ability to evaluate and summarize a written passage allows the student to read a variety of literature, both for pleasure and information, with maximum understanding.  Having the ability to identify the main idea and  supporting details of a written work also allows students to differentiate well-supported points  from weak ones.  This skill can transfer to both written and spoken communication, allowing students to read, write, and speak in a concise, evidence-based manner.  

Relevance to Practice

Understanding reading material is a foundational skill for learning.  Learning material of all disciplines consists of written word.  While each subject may be marginally different in the depth and level of skills it requires, being able to read and evaluate written word is a skill imperative to learning and academic growth.

Key Terms and Concepts

Main Idea


Big Idea

Supporting Details



Instructional Strategies and Activities


Teacher engages students in a discussion about what a tripod, table, or house have in common.  Teacher introduces term “supporting details” to students and defines supporting details as evidences or examples that support the main idea.  

(3-5 min)


Using the information sheet, students teach one another the terms “main idea” and “supporting details.”  


The teacher introduces the terms “main idea” and “supporting details” to the students.  

Guided Practice

Using the informational sheet, students read an example informational passage, and identify the main idea and supporting details.  Throughout the reading and discussion, teacher asks clarifying questions such as, “How do these details support the main idea?”  “What makes_____ the main idea?” "Are these details strong or weak?  Why?"


Students receive another sample passage from the website.  Students diagram the main idea(with a box) and supporting details (underlining them).  Students then pair with someone else in their class to discuss and compare answers.


The teacher asks the students to read an article from their most-accessed daily media (ie., news websites, facebook, a favorite magazine), and identify the main idea of the article accessed.  Students are encouraged to speculate as to the strength of the article given it's supporting details.  

Supplementary Resources and References

There is a sample informational passage from :

Supplementary Resources

Students will need computers or the supplemental sample informational page photocopied.


Attribution Statement

The sample persuasive papers is used from:  See the statement at the bottom of the paper “This page may be photocopied for use with students.”

Download: Learning Document.docx

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