Use details to describe key elements of a text (Inclusive Big Idea #3)

What are students learning?

Reading Informational Text

Grade 1: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #3: Use details to describe key elements of a text

Standard: Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text. RI.1.3

How could I teach this?

Think about how instructional strategies and activities can give students multiple ways to engage with learning. One way won’t work for all, so how can you remove and reduce barriers for all students?

  • Graphic Organizers: To help students understand various informational text structures, use a paper-based or digital graphic organizer (you might use a cluster map for descriptive texts, a Venn diagram for compare/contrast texts, a step-by-step guide for sequential texts, a cause/effect organizer for cause and effect/texts, and a problem solution organizer for problem/solution texts). Have a model example of how to fill out a graphic organizer. This can be done with an engaging topic or area of interest for students. Provide opportunities for students to work on their graphic organizer individually, with partners, in small groups, or as a whole class. This can be done as text is read aloud or listened to. See this TIP Sheet for more information on graphic organizers.
    • Venn Diagrams: To get students to understand the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information, use a compare/contrast text structure. Brainstorm (individually, in a small group, or with the whole class) how two or more things are alike and/or how they are different. Start by modeling this with an engaging example. Provide multiple options for students to record ideas into the Venn Diagrams, such as words, images, or other media. Venn Diagrams can be paper-based or digital. See this TIP Sheet for more information on graphic organizers.
    • Time Lines: Individually, in pairs, or with the whole class, students can craft a timeline to record important events in history or important milestones in a well-known person’s life. Timelines can be digital or paper-based. A template can help students know how to get started. Students can create multiple timelines of the same historical period to compare the influence of one thing on something else (e.g., a timeline of important events of the Civil Rights movement and a timeline of the historical Civil Rights legislature that was passed as a result).
    • Flowchart: Ask students to plot the relationship between ideas in a flowchart. Students can record effects and their relevant causes and map a problem and subsequent solution within a flowchart. Start by modeling the process with a well-known topic, then allow students to complete their own flowcharts independently or with a partner.
    • Bubble Map: When determining the main idea and relevant details in a passage, a bubble map can help students prioritize information from a text and present it in a visual way to help clarify the relationship between ideas. After reading a passage, ask students to determine what they think the text is about and place that idea in the center of the bubble map. Then have students (individually, in small groups, or as a whole class) brainstorm the supporting details and place those around the main idea. Students may need support in determining which details from the text are meaningful, so have a discussion about how to determine what information is most important to their understanding of a text.
  • Instructional Conversations: Individually, in small groups, or with the whole class, engage a conversation about a content-area topic. Activate background knowledge by asking students what they already know about the topic. Provide flexible ways for students to record their ideas during the conversations, this could include a template or graphic organizer. Provide direct information using multiple media (such as videos, images, discussion) about the topic to build their knowledge. Ask or have different questions prompting students about the topic and allow for open conversation about the topic. Students should support their ideas by using information they learned from books or other multimedia sources. Through these discussions, students should begin examining how different people, events, ideas, or concepts are connected. See this TIP Sheet for more information on Whole Group Discussions.
  • Discussion Webs: When trying to determine which of two conflicting ideas from a text are correct, or which of two answers to a question could be correct, record a question about the informational text in the middle of a web. Draw lines extending from the web and ask students to provide responses to the question. For example, you may write “Who was Martin Luther King?” in the middle of the web. Then, use extended lines to show how students can offer responses to the question. You might have connectors that specifically ask students to make connections between the topic and other aspects of the topic. Once they have gathered enough information from the text, students can decide which of the two options they support. Use discussion web templates (that might be digital or paper-based). Model how to use discussion webs using engaging topics, to begin with, then move to more informational texts.
  • Think Aloud: The purpose of asking students questions about texts is to get them into the habit of self-questioning as they read by themselves. To model this, read aloud or listen to an informational text in front of the class. The audio can be captioned. Then, periodically, stop and ask questions out loud. Think-alouds can also be pre-recorded so that students can listen and watch them multiple times with captions. As you continue to read, model how you begin answering the questions yourself. See this TIP Sheet for more information on how to model using a Think Aloud.

Don’t stop here! Remember to reduce barriers for all students.

Make reducing barriers a process - take a few minutes to think about your process! Is there a barrier related to:

  • interest or engagement? Think about how to incorporate student’s lived experiences, culture, and interests… 
  • background knowledge? Think about how to highlight key ideas and define key vocabulary… 
  • showing what they know? Think about having options for how they use learning tools and technology to communicate…

For example, one possible barrier is the amount of information that a student needs to hold in mind.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • be aware of how much sensory input occurs at once, perhaps offer the option to use headphones
  • show examples and provide answers to check along the way
  • provide templates or graphic organizers
  • allow use of spell checks and other tools 

Use these Inclusive Strategies to help reduce barriers.

Tell me more about this Inclusive Big Idea (I need a refresher)

Brush up on the content of this Inclusive Big Idea. It will help you and your colleagues to understand and teach this content better.

  • The Big Idea: Use details to describe key elements of a text
  • Tell me more about… Using Details
    • The supporting details of informational text are information that helps to clarify the reader’s understanding of the most important points that the author is trying to make about a specific subject. Identifying and categorizing the main idea within informational text is critical to successful readers. You support your main idea by using details to explain it, describe it, define it, or otherwise give information about it.
  • Tell me more about… Key Elements
    • The key elements of an informational text are the most important points that the author is trying to make about a specific subject. Identifying and categorizing main ideas within informational text is critical to successful readers.
  • Tell me more about… Informational Text Structures
    • When readers interact with the text to create meaning, it is helpful to have an awareness of the organizational structure of what is being read. For instance, students learn to be aware of cues that alert them to specific text structures such as main ideas and details, a cause and its effects, and/or different points of view. Teaching students to recognize common text structures can help them focus their attention on key concepts and relationships, anticipate the content of what they will read, and monitor their comprehension. Additionally, when students are aware of the text structures, they connect information with their prior knowledge, increase their reading speed, and retain information better. Finally, students who develop an understanding of text structure are more likely to apply their knowledge to their own writing.
    • Internal Text Structure: These text structures refer to the ways in which information within a text is organized to convey the content. Some texts are organized using more than one text structure. Text structures offer important clues that organize the text in predictable and understandable ways.
    • Description: The author explains a topic, idea, person, place, or thing by listing characteristics, features, and examples. Focus is on one thing and its components
      • Example: Many things must be taken care of to get ready to go back to school. For example, one thing to do is prepare your classroom. Another is to organize your materials. The most important thing to do to be ready to go back to school is to plan engaging lessons for students.
      • Signal words include: for example; characteristics are; such as; looks like; consists of; for instance; most important
      • *Look for the topic word (or synonym) to be repeated throughout the text.
      • Description Question Stems:
        • What specific person, place, thing, event, or concept is being described?
        • How is the topic described? (How does it work? What does it do? What does it look like?)
        • What are the most important attributes or characteristics?
        • How can the topic be classified? (For example, a robin can be classified as a type of bird.)
    • Sequence: The author lists items or events in numerical or chronological order. Sequence describes the order of events or how to do or make something.
      • May present a timeline, a cycle, or steps/directions
      • Signal words include: first, second, third; next; then; after; before; prior to; not long after; while; meanwhile; simultaneously; at the same time; following; finally; at last; in the end; on (date); at (time); directions
      • Sequence Question Stems
        • What sequence of events is being described?
        • What are the major events or incidents that occur?
        • What are the steps, directions, or procedures to follow? (What must be done first, second, etc.?)
        • What is the beginning event?
        • What other events or steps are included?
        • What is the final outcome, event, or step?
    • Compare/Contrast: The author explains how two or more things are alike and/or how they are different.
      • Signal words include: differs from; similar to; in contrast; alike; same as; as well as; on the other hand; both; either, or; not only, but also; yet; although; but; however; on the other hand. Also look for “-est” words: best, fewest, tallest, etc.
      • Compare/Contrast Question Stems
        • What items are being compared?
        • What is it about them that is being compared?
        • What characteristics of items form the basis of the comparison?
        • What characteristics do they have in common; how are these items alike?
        • In what ways are these items different?
    • Cause and Effect: The author lists one or more causes or events and the resulting consequences or effects. The purpose is to explain why or how something happened, exists, or works. Often there will be an “if/then” pattern
      • Signal words include: reasons why; reasons for; if...then; as a result of; therefore; because of; so; since; in order to; leads or leads to; effects of; caused by; result; outcome; impact; influenced by; brought about by
      • Cause and Effect Question Stems
        • What happened?
        • Why did it happen? What was the reason for…?
        • What was the effect(s) of the event? What happened as a result of…?
        • What were the results or outcomes caused by the event?
        • In what ways did prior event(s) cause or influence the main event?
        • Will this result always happen from these causes?
  • Problem and Solution: The author states a problem and lists one or more possible solutions to the problem. May also include pros and cons for the solutions.
    • Signal words include: the problem is…; the dilemma is…; the puzzle is…; solved; question; answer; because; since; this led to; the main difficulty; one possible solution is…; one challenge…; therefore; this led to, so that; if...then, thus
    • Problem and Solution Question Stems
      • What is the problem?
      • Who had the problem?
      • What is causing the problem?
      • Why is this a problem?
      • What is wrong and how can it be taken care of?
      • What solutions are recommended or attempted?
      • What can be improved, changed, fixed, or remedied?
      • What are the pros and cons of the solutions offered?


Looking for more suggestions? Target student common misconceptions, build on interdisciplinary links, and implement strategies and supports across multiple lessons or units.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Text Types: Students may be unfamiliar with the different informational text types. Provide concrete definitions and examples of each text type to support their understanding of the text structures and content within the text.
  • Prioritizing Information: Students may have difficulty prioritizing information within a text to determine the key elements and supporting details. They will need modeling and support to make progress with this skill.

  • Social Studies: Have students take notes by recording (e.g., writing, voice, images, drawings) the key elements and details about the topic or text.

Everyday Connections

  • How Was Your Day?: Students could think of their own classroom and describe the people (students), settings (classroom), and major events of the day/year using key details.

Explore other Inclusive Big Ideas to think about the content you are teaching. How can you connect what you are teaching now to what has been taught before or what will be taught in the future?

Other TIES resources:

Inclusive Big Ideas: Standards-based resources for inclusive classrooms | TIES Center

The Inclusive Big Ideas were adapted from resources created by the NCSC Project , a federal grant from the US Department of Education (PR/Award #: H373X100002), However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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