Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Finding the Main Idea and Key Details About Friendship

By Sarah Maze, M.S. Ed., Guest Blogger

Friendship is a topic that every student can learn about and relate to because it involves social-emotional learning. As teachers, we are responsible for teaching comprehension skills about key details and main ideas, so why not cover the topic of friendship to help kids achieve these Common Core State Standards? In today's blog post, I'm giving you steps to use with leveled readers to teach kids about friendship and practice reading comprehension.


Pocket Pal is a narrative text about a little girl who keeps a critter in her pocket. In this fiction book, the main character mentions a few details about her little pal. You can use the following steps with this level E book to meet Common Core State Standards that address finding key details.

  1. Begin by introducing the concept of a pocket. Ask students to count how many pockets they have in their clothes.
  2. Introduce the word pal .
  3. Ask students to make predictions what the book will be about: What could a pocket pal be?
  4. Set a purpose for reading: Today we are going to read Pocket Pal . Listen for details about the pal as I read.
  1. Read Pocket Pal .
  2. Help students brainstorm some of the important details about the little girl's pal. Since citing evidence is an essential part of retelling, you can create a chart like this:
  3. After discussing the details, ask students if they would like to have Squeakers as a pocket pal. Then ask why they feel this way.
  4. As an extension, have kids choose a real animal to be their pocket pals and have them write some key details on an envelope. For each envelope, have kids name and illustrate their pocket pals. Then have them work with a partner to trade envelopes so that one student can read the details as the other student guesses what kind of animal their pocket pal is.

Sophia and the Bully is a fiction book about a new student named Sophia whom no one speaks. A boy in her class appears to be a bully; however, in the end, we find out he was acting that way to try to become Sophia’s friend. This story is a level G narrative text that's suitable for first graders. Unfortunately, bullying is an experience that students may need to be prepared to face. Some students can also experience changing schools and being a new student. You can use this book to teach many life lessons while practicing reading comprehension skills.

  1. Read the title. Ask students if they can describe how a bully acts. Be careful not to allow anyone to refer to another student as a bully.
  2. Activate prior knowledge about experiencing a new school by asking questions that pertain to changing schools or being new: How did it feel not seeing your old friends? How did you make new friends?
  3. Set a purpose for reading: We are going to read Sophia and the Bully . As I read this book, I want you to look for actions and words from other characters that show us how to be better friends.
  4. Read Sophia and the Bully .
  5. After reading, talk to kids about each character, what they think each one did well, or what the characters could have done differently. The following details about each character help support many life lessons students can learn about friendship.
  6. Afterward, have students practice making predictions by writing about Sophia's next day at school. You can write the following questions on the board as prompts: What did each character do? Did they practice what they learned about friendship?

The Very Stinky Bug is a book about a smelly bug who tries to make friends. None of the other animals are interested in being the bug's friend until it saves their lives. This book supports Common Core standards about key details about events and characters. It's also a level G book and best suited for struggling readers in first grade.

  1. Activate prior knowledge by asking students what they know about stinkbugs or whether they have seen one or smelled one.
  2. Set a purpose for reading: Today we are going to read The Very Stinky Bug . I want you to listen for key details about the character named Stink Bug.
  3. Read The Very Stinky Bug .
  4. Ask students for key details about Stink Bug. If this is difficult for kids, you can review each page to encourage students to cite evidence from the text and illustrations for their answers.
  5. Ask students what they learned about other characters in the story.
  6. After discussing characters and the book's ending, ask the following questions about friendship: Would Stink Bug be a good friend? Would you protect the other insects after they were unkind?
  7. As an extension activity, have students draw a picture of one of their friends in the center of a piece of paper. Then have them create a web to write character traits for each person to describe what makes each person a good friend.

The Friendship Shell is a book about a little boy who finds a unique seashell on a class field trip. He shares it with the class and ends up learning a lesson, not just about shells, but also about friendship. This book is a level K narrative text, which is best suited for second graders. It requires students to make inferences and can be used to develop higher level thinking skills when looking for key details and the main idea.

  1. Activate prior knowledge by asking students if they have been to the beach or found seashells.
  2. Prepare students by doing a picture walk. Look at the illustrations on each page and point out details that will help students. For example, you can say: On page 2, what do you notice about where the boy is standing? Is he with his class? Can you predict why he is standing alone?
  3. Set a purpose for reading: As I read The Friendship Shell , I want you to look for key details that can help us determine the main idea of this book. What do you think the author is trying to teach us about friendship?
  4. Read The Friendship Shell .
  5. Ask students what key details they noticed in the illustrations that match. the text. Since citing evidence is an important part of Common Core, you may want to create a chart similar to the one below to help with this review.
  6. Ask students what the boy learned. If this is difficult, compare and contrast his facial expressions at the beginning and end of the story. Have students answer with a sentence stem, such as “He learned ___. I think this because ___.” Their evidence should include some of the key details.
  7. Since the main character learned about friendship and his classmates, give students an opportunity to say something unique about each student in your class. You can let students raise their hands to participate, or you could do this as a student of the week activity.

Reading comprehension is crucial for helping students develop a love of reading. As students read leveled books on friendship, they gain literacy strategies that help develop a love of reading. As they practice reading skills, they also develop social skills that are relevant to their lives. Visit our blog soon for more engaging lesson ideas to use with your kids!


Sarah is an elementary school teacher who has taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth grade. One of her most unique experiences was teaching orphans in Tanzania, Africa for a year. If you like what you read here, be sure to read more by Sarah on our blog .