One cannot discuss Main Idea without the Facts and Details and vice versa.  They have to go hand in hand.  Your Facts and Details lead up to your Main Idea.  They are the supporting bits of information that give you the Main Idea of a passage.  The Main Idea wouldn’t be a main idea, if it didn’t have the facts and details to discuss.

     Recalling Facts and Details VIDEO

    Recalling and Retelling Facts VIDEO


    Sentences that tell more about the main idea are called facts and details.  Facts and details explain or support the most important idea in the paragraph.

    •  Facts and details provide information about the main idea.
    •  Facts and details often tell about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the main idea.  These are known as the 5 Ws + H.


    5 Ws & How Video

    5 Ws +H Questions

    WHO Questions ask you to identify a person or character

    WHAT Questions ask you about the details of something.  They can refer to an object, activity, or event.  

    WHEN Questions ask you for the time an event or activity happens or has happened.

    WHERE Questions ask you for the place in which an event happens or has happened.

          (The “When” and “Where” questions make up the setting of the story.)

    WHY Questions ask for the reasons something has taken place.

    HOW Questions ask you about the way something happened or a quantity of something.  

              Every reading passage contains facts and details.  The facts and details tell more about the main idea.  Questions about facts and details ask you about something that was stated in the passage.  To answer a question about a fact or detail, look back to the passage to find the answer.  A common mistake that children make when reading and looking for the Main Idea of a paragraph or passage is that they focus in on one detail of the story and think THAT is the Main Idea.  Students have to put ALL the facts and details together to come up with the OVERALL Main Idea of the passage.  Too many times students only see that ONE detail and don’t put them all together.  This is why many students get the Main Idea question incorrect on a reading activity.  However, they seem to do fairly well when reading for facts and details.  

    Students have to remember that when taking a reading test, that reading is NOT a memorizing skill.  They are SUPPOSED to look back in the story to verify that the facts and details are correct.  Facts and Detail questions are basically recall questions.  These are known as “literal” questions.  This means that there is no real interpretive, thinking skill involved most of the time.  It is just a “spitting back” of the facts and details in a story.  The child should be able to go back to the story and find the answer in black and white.  The answers are not usually hidden or left to interpretation.  These usually are the easier questions to answer on a test.  However, a student should review these facts and details in his/her head when reading to help in the understanding of the passage.

    The questions that are easy fact questions are the “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when” questions.  The “Why” and the “how” require more synthesizing or putting together the ideas of a story.  These are a little more difficult to locate in a reading passage.  Students need to be “Reading Detectives” when they read and always look for clues for the answers to questions.

    The “fact and detail” type of question is based upon information which is actually stated in the passage.  One must find the part of the selection which deals with what is being asked.

    Some ways FACT/DETAIL QUESTIONS can show up on a reading activity are:

    • According to the passage___________.                 
    • When did ____________ happen?
    • What was the name of ____________?                   
    • How far it is to ____________?
    • Which of the following is NOT a reason?
    • Who is the one who ___________?
    • Where did he find ____________


    Who is the best swimmer?

    What did the princess wish for?

    Where was the palace located?

    When does the party start?

    How much did the balloon cost?

    How did the turtle win the race?

    Why did the spider invite the grasshopper for dinner?

              Strategy for fact/detail questions:                    

    • Read the question
    • Find the part in the passage that discusses the question—    some of the words will be the same
    • Then answer the question.  Some of the questions may be in the negative.  For example:  Which of these event did NOT happen?
    • You don’t have to re-read the entire selection.  Look quickly through the selection to find the facts that you need.

    5Ws & H

    To help me understand details of what I read.

    Ask detailed questions







                 Answer the questions

    A sk detailed questions to go with the main ideas.

    • For each of the main ideas that you have identified in a reading, ask yourself questions starting with the 5 W's and 1 H question words. 


    W ho

    • Identify the characters in the reading and make a list of them.
    • Draw connecting lines between the characters and describe to yourself the relationship between the characters.


    W hat

    • Identify the events or actions and make a list of them.
    • Draw connecting lines between the events or actions to show the relationship between them.
    • Draw connecting lines between the characters and the events as you describe to yourself the relationship between them.





    • Identify all the places in the reading and make a list of them.
    • Draw connecting lines between places, events and characters as you describe to yourself the relationship among them.



    • Identify all the time factors in the reading and make a list of them.
    • Draw connecting lines between time factors, places, events and characters as you describe to yourself the relationship among them.




    W hy

    • Identify causes for events of actions and make a list of them.
    • Draw connecting lines from the causes to effects on the characters, events, places, or times as you describe to yourself the relationship among them.



    • Identify the way events took place and make a list of them.
    • Draw connecting lines between the way events took place and other factors as you describe to yourself the relationship among them.


    A nswer the questions using an outline or graphic organizers.

    • Review all the details you listed.
    • Make an outline of the overall or main ideas and then select details from your lists that are important and write these under the main ideas. You don't have to include every detail that you identified. You may want to use different colored pens (or fonts if you are word processing) and write the main idea in one color (black), the who details in another color (blue), the what details in another (green), etc. This helps you see the relationship between all the information. When you complete your outline, you should have a complete picture of the overall ideas and how the details relate to these.
    • It might also be helpful to draw lines integrating all the details.