Writing Tips - Topic Sentence & Main Idea

I love teaching writing! I know, that's crazy.  But I really do.  (I also love Chick-Fil-A, which I cannot eat because I was struck with a stomach bug on Friday.)

The mere fact that I mention it shows that I am finally hungry.

I intended to blog on Friday... then Saturday.  And here we are, on Sunday, and I'm realizing that my last post was last Monday and I just couldn't have a week in between. Gotta stick to those New Year's Resolutions! (Which, by the way, definitely do NOT include Chick-Fil-A.)

Anywho, for my next few posts, I'm going to be blogging about writing expository pieces. 

Teaching expository writing can be very challenging in second grade!

This post is all about topic sentences - which I think is a pretty hard concept to teach to second graders! One reason is -- it's really hard for second graders to say what they want to say without saying all they have to say.

Know what I'm saying? :)

Before I talk about topic sentences, it's important to explain the approach I use when teaching main idea.  That's because my topic sentence lesson is directly related to that.

I use something called the 'Main Idea Question'.  Basically that turns the main idea into a question, a question that the paragraph answers. (This is a great way for kids to check to see if their writing is on topic.) The topic sentence answers the main idea question without giving away any details.

Here's an example for you:  Sharks have many teeth in their mouth.  Their teeth have serrated edges to bite its prey. 

The "Main Idea Question" would be: "What are shark's teeth like?" (Or something similar)

**I have Main Idea product on TpT that uses this method - you can see it in action here.

Topic Sentence Lesson: The main idea question on this chart is "What do cats look like?" Before we can write the topic sentence, we need to brainstorm what cats look like.  (You can see this on the upper-right-hand corner of the chart.  The students said: claws, fur, tail, etc. These are my charts from last year, so excuse the lack of super cuteness!

Next the students answer the 'Main Idea Question' without giving away the details. So they have to explain what a cat looks like without mentioning the claws, fur, tail, etc. They also use the topic sentence words that we found in our mentor informational texts.  Each strip was made by a pair of students.

*You can see that my students put boxes around some of the words.  We looked at examples of topic sentences in mentor informational texts in a previous lesson and discovered that many topic sentences contained the words "many, some, a lot, etc."  This gives students a good foundation for how to word their topic sentence.

*I used green sentence strips to color code the topic sentence.  

You can see there is still some work to do, but the kids get the general idea!

This lesson is fresh in my mind because we are gearing up to start this unit in just a few short weeks!

In other news, if you read Casey's blog over at Second Grade Math Maniac she's having a maniacal giveaway as we speak! Check it out for some amazing freebies!!

Well, it's still Sunday in Cali -- good night to you!


  1. Loved this post. I'm new to second this year. I'm really having a hard time with writing. Do you mind sharing how you grade writing? I'd love some tips and pointers.

    P.S. Off to check out your packets now

  2. Glad you are on the mend... hopefully you will be back to 100% soon. :D
    I LOVE teaching writing, too! This main idea question activity is a smart one!
    ❤Dragonflies in First ❤

  3. Love the break down of the writing-makes it so clear for the lil cuties to see. Such a hard concept for them to understand and to not just barf all the details at once. Just give them a lil sample-a lil Chic-Fil-A nugget, not the whole meal.
    Speaking of, we have one opening in Feb finally in our city and the fam is going to try and be one of the first 100 so we can win free Chic-Fil-A for a year! Oh ya!
    If we win, I will invite you out, my treat-I know, I'm a giver ;)

    Fluttering Through First Grade


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