Teaching Foundational Reading & Writing Skills

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teaching reading and writing foundations

Our learners are often faced with having to complete academic tasks, when they don’t fully grasp the concepts needed to be successful.   

We ask our students to retell stories, yet they don’t know how to sequence. 

They are expected to write about the main idea of a text, but they are stuck on what main idea means.

Without a comprehension of these underlying concepts your students will continue to struggle. And you will continue to teach the SAME information over and over. 

Our 2-step strategy for teaching foundational concepts is a guide not only for how to effectively teach foundational concepts, but also for figuring out which concepts are important to teach.  

[Not sure what strategy we are referring to? Check out our previous blog post here]

Hop on down to see this strategy in action! 


First, I take a look at the writing units my students will be doing during the year. My third graders will be working on narrative, information, persuasive, fairy tales, research, opinion, and literary essay. 

To keep things simple, I make a list of concepts for just the first 3 units: narrative, information, and persuasive. I pull out the teaching tools like charts and organizers for these units to help make lists of the important concepts: 

THEN, I compare the lists, find concepts that keep popping up, and highlight them! 

When comparing the lists, I found 9 common concepts!!!

Grasping these concepts early in the year will also set my students up for success in later lessons too, like research and literary essay! BIG PAYOFF!!!


Now that I am armed with my list, I plan my lessons to teach each one. 

Remember- it may feel impossible to teach all 9 at the start of the year. Pick out a few, or even just one, that will help students in the immediate future. 

I know my students always struggle with finding and writing supporting details AND supporting details show up in MANY reading and writing units. I am going to start with that concept. 

For teaching the concept of supporting details, I use the GRASPhopper method of learnmodelpractice.  I follow this method across a few sessions.

LEARN: Explain the meaning of supporting details using a student friendly definition 

  • 📣 I explain to my third grade group “We are going to learn about supporting details. These are the details that prove the main idea is true”

MODEL: Provide examples of supporting details across different activities 

✅ TIP:  Embed models into other lessons and activities you are already doing

▶️ I will show the model section from our Supporting Details teaching video during a session. I will pause the video to check for comprehension. 

  • Read a non-fiction book about Thomas Edison during science and explicitly point out the supporting details that prove he was an important inventor 
  • Show this visual each time I notice supporting details during activities

PRACTICE: Give my students opportunities to DEVELOP and SHOW their understanding of supporting details with critical thinking activities.

  • Sort on and off-topic supporting details about a country they are studying in social studies  
  • Highlight supporting details in a paragraph, like those found in this Foundations of Supporting Details Resource
  • Read a high-interest text from the Foundations of Supporting Details Resource out loud and have students turn and talk about the supporting details 
  • Write down 3 additional details on the board and have students decide which one should be added to the text. I will also have them explain why!
  • BONUS: This activity is already included in the resource for easy planning!

Build up your students’ knowledge of foundational concepts early in the year.

The time spent upfront will lead to less re-teaching for you and more success for your students!

Which foundational concept will you dive into first?  

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