Teaching Supporting Details in 5 Easy Steps

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5 steps for teaching supporting details

Supporting Details 

We have all seen commercials for the Apple iPhone. What iPhone are we on now? 

You turn on the TV and see another commercial…..great. There is a nice shiny new phone on the screen and the claim “we are the best phone on the market.”  You think to yourself-–It’s nice, but it looks like every other phone.

Suddenly you hear, “This camera is one of a kind! It can zoom in 3x and still have crystal clear images. The phone’s wide zoom lens is the first on the market”.  OH! This isn’t just another claim, there is actual proof this phone is the best! You sigh as you pull out your wallet. Time for a new phone.

This is the perfect example of supporting details in action. However, many of our students are struggling with supporting details. They never developed a strong understanding of the foundations: what supporting details are, why supporting details are important, and how to find them.

Let’s dive right in. 

Definition of supporting details

In order to teach students about supporting details, we first need to understand what supporting details are.

A supporting detail is the information that helps prove, explain, or clarify the main idea.

Finding supporting details is an important skill to acquire and will only come with practice. Here is a resource you can use in your classes or send home with your students. 

Supporting Details Differentiated activities

Check out our Supporting Details resource that includes step-by-step lessons AND worksheets. We hope you find this helpful! 

Why Are Supporting Details Important? 

Supporting details hold up, or explain the topic sentence. Without supporting details, there is no evidence to back up the argument that the author is trying to explain. While reading, students need to be able to determine the evidence that validates a stance; it makes reading comprehension that much easier. 

Supporting details provide clarity to a reader. Therefore, they aren’t left confused or wondering what is this talking about?? (A thought we have all had while reading our students’ writing).

When writing, students need to be able to write a paragraph and explain their stance. Supporting details are what makes a student’s writing clear and concise. This is a skill they will use throughout their education and future profession. 

BUT we have found our student’s are often missing the foundations that are needed before they can write essays with strong supporting details. 

Strong essay writing with supporting details

Why do students struggle so much? 

The struggle is real. That’s right, it’s no mystery that students demonstrate difficulty with finding supporting details in a paragraph; but why is this? 

Finding supporting details requires reading comprehension and critical thinking. Students need to know what they are looking for and why they are important as they are actively reading. So basically, they are doing 800 different things, while figuring out which specific sentences prove the main idea. 

It can be difficult for them to differentiate between a true supporting detail sentence and other information that they are reading. We all know those students who highlight every…single…sentence! Most of them being off-topic sentences that do not support the main idea. 

How to Find Supporting Details in a Paragraph

Although students struggle to find supporting details, this does not mean it is a struggle to teach! Here are the steps you can take to teach students how to find supporting details in a text. 

  1. Read the paragraph
  2. Find the topic sentence. Need a refresher? Click here.
    • TIP: Have students start by highlighting the topic sentence so that they can refer back to it to remind them what they are proving
  3. Have students identify the transition words in the paragraph. These can be any word or phrase that helps transition one idea to another. Some examples of common transition words are one, another, first, also, and for example.
  4. FIND THE PROOF! Do this by reading the rest of the sentence connected to the transition word and see if it proves, clarifies or explains the topic sentence.
  5. Does it connect? Students need to make sure these supporting details prove the main point. If a sentence connects, it’s a support. 
    • All too often students will point out details that do not support the main point– this can be tricky and will take some practice. 

Let’s Practice! 

It’s always good to make sure you know what to do, before passing it along to students. So let’s take a moment to try it out! 


  1. Read the paragraph 
  2. Identify the topic sentence/ main idea 
  3. Locate the transition words 
  4. Find the PROOF (these are the supporting details)
  5. Check to be sure each proof connects to the topic sentence


[ Taking care of a dog is a lot of work. You have to make sure the dog has enough food. Also, a dog needs to be taken for a walk. Lastly, the dog must be given a bath and brushed often. There are many things you must do in order to take care of a dog. ]

What 3 supporting details did you find? 

Helpful tip for your classroom: Remind students to think of the paragraph as a hamburger. The topic sentence and concluding sentence are the buns and the meat, lettuce, and other toppings are the supporting details. They are what hold up the topic sentence and really give the paragraph “flavor.”

Hamburger paragraph organizer

Grab your free How to Write a Paragraph resource now! 

There’s More! 

GRASPhopper wants to make sure everyone understands the steps to finding supporting details, so we’ve created a video lesson!

Watch GRASPhopper’s step-by-step teaching video as a guide. The video will not only increase your knowledge of supporting details, but can be used directly with your students too!

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