K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • identify irrelevant (”So What?”) details that are not related to the main idea.
  • identify relevant and irrelevant details in their own writing.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

50 Minutes

Materials/resources

Transparency of “The Special Surprise” (pdf | rtf)

Technology resources

Overhead Projector (or some other projection device)

Activities

Modeling/Mini-lesson

(30 minutes)

  1. Sometimes when we’re talking with friends, people say, “So what?” to show that something that was said was totally unimportant. Say: “For example, if I said that I was going to the store to buy you a birthday present, and then I described in great detail what I was going to wear to the store, you might want to say, ‘So what?’ You wouldn’t really care about what I was wearing because it has nothing to do with the birthday present.”
  2. Remind students that when we write, we sometimes put in descriptive details, but they have no real purpose and don’t move the story along. We can call those “So what?” details.
  3. Display the transparency “Special Surprise,” and read it aloud.
  4. Have students think for a moment what this story is mainly about. What is the focus? Say: “When I think about this story, I see that it is mainly about getting a new puppy. Let’s look again at the story and notice the details that the writer included.”
  5. Continue to explain that the description “red shirt and blue pants” and “light brown hands” can be called “So What?” details because “so what” that the hands were light brown and the shirt was red and the pants were blue. These details have nothing to do with the main idea or focus of the story.
  6. Have students read the rest of the story silently and then talk with partners about examples they notice that could be called “So What?” details. Share examples (”beautiful, white kitchen”).
  7. Point out now the relevant details that are related the main idea and move the story along. An example is: “loud knock” because “loud” shows that it is unexpected and gets the attention of the character in the story. It is related to what happens in the story about discovering the new puppy.
  8. Have students reread the story and identify several details that are relevant to the main idea, those that are not “So What?” details. Then have them share their ideas with a partner and explain why they aren’t “So What?” details. (Other examples: “little baby puppy,” “cute little puppy”).

Independent Practice/Conferencing

  1. Have students select a draft from their writing folder and identify one place where the details are “So What?” details that don’t support the main idea. Then have them find one place where the details are relevant and support the main idea. Ask them to share their findings with a partner. Tell the students to revise their drafts by deleting any “So What?” details and adding relevant details.
  2. Closure: Remind students that we can see that just adding details to a piece of writing doesn’t make it better if the details are “So What?” details. Details and elaboration should be related to the main idea and should move the story along in an interesting manner.

Assessment

  • Can students identify “So What?” details in the model story?
  • Can students identify “So What?” details in their own writing?
  • Can students revise their own writing to delete “So What?” details and add relevant details?

Supplemental information

  • Writing Features: Support & Elaboration, Focus
  • Writing Process Stage: Revision
  • Writing Environment: Expressive
  • Writing Genre: Personal narrative

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Writing

        • Grade 3
          • 3.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
        • Grade 4
          • 4.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
        • Grade 5
          • 5.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus reflection and revision (with assistance) on target elements by:
      • clarifying ideas.
      • adding descriptive words and phrases.
      • sequencing events and ideas.
      • combining short, related sentences.
      • strengthening word choice.
  • Goal 5: The learner will apply grammar and language conventions to communicate effectively.
    • Objective 5.04: Compose two or more paragraphs with:
      • topic sentences.
      • supporting details.
      • appropriate, logical sequence.
      • sufficient elaboration.

Grade 4

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus revision on a specific element such as:
      • word choice.
      • sequence of events and ideas.
      • transitional words.
      • sentence patterns.
  • Goal 5: The learner will apply grammar and language conventions to communicate effectively.
    • Objective 5.04: Compose multiple paragraphs with:
      • topic sentences.
      • specific, relevant details.
      • logical progression and movement of ideas.
      • coherence.
      • elaboration.
      • concluding statement related to the topic.

Grade 5

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus revision on target elements by:
      • improving word choice.
      • rearranging text for clarity.
      • creating simple and/or complex sentences for clarity or impact.
      • developing a lead, characters, or mood.