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Mayhem at the Museum

Context for this Lesson


Topic: Main Idea

Purpose: Identify the main idea and the ability to analyze main ideas using the evidence presented.

Prior Knowledge:  Review vocabulary - Main Idea


This is Not A... 

"What do I have here? (triangle or roll of tape) Yes, and when we are doing drama, we can pretend this triangle is anything we want it to be. I’m going to try it out. This is not a triangle. This is my shark fin. Nah, Nah, Nah So, what did I just do? (became a shark) How did you know? (Put fin on my head, sang a song, made a shark face) These supporting details or context clues that I provided (repeat what they said I did) help you know the main idea of what I am performing: That my triangle is a shark fin. So let’s see if we can go around the circle and let each person try to turn the triangle into something new. Remember to use your acting choices as supporting details. When the triangle comes to you, you say “This is not a triangle…” and then you say what it is and use the object. Let’s all say “This is not a triangle” together so we can practice what we need to say? If you feel stuck you can say “phone a friend” and someone will help you. Excellent. Any questions?"

Go around the circle letting each student, who would like to, take a turn.

"Great work! Ok, now I’m going to add another challenge. This time we are going to play the game but we’ll try it like this. 'This is not a triangle this is a….'"

Teacher uses the triangle as a long tooth.

"Does anyone have a guess about what the triangle became? (answers) Great. What supporting details did you see that told you the answer? (students offer answers) Yes, so I’m hearing you say that I had to use my body and my voice to show you what I was doing. You figured out that the main idea of what I was doing was showing you my tooth and you used information that you saw (or supporting ideas) to help you determine the main idea of what I was doing. I had to keep it simple so you knew what was going on. Now, I’d like to invite two or three people to come up with something new for the triangle. Who wants to start? The rest of us will use the supporting ideas provided by your voice, body and face to guess what you are doing."

Two to three students go, rest of students guess. Emphasize connecting the body/voice/face/emotion “clues” as a link to each guess and answer. When a student makes a guess ask them “What supporting ideas help you think that might be the answer.”

Transition: "Today we are going to be working on finding the main idea. Just like we used clues to figure out what we someone was doing in This is not a... Today, we’re going to use supporting ideas or clues to find the main idea in a picture and a story." 

  • Can anyone tell me what the main idea of a story is?
  • How might you be able to find the main idea?
  • What kind of clues do we use in a story to help find the main idea?

Narrative Pantomime

"Wonderful! Now to transition into our main activity we’re going to pretend to go to an art museum."

  • Who knows what’s in an art museum?
  • What do people do there?

"I am going to lead your through a narrative pantomime that will take us to the museum where we will be doing our work today. To participate in this narrative stay in your own place in the circle while pantomiming, or acting out what is happening." 

"Today we are going to an art museum to look at some art work. You are an expert in looking at art and the museum needs your help. We are on the bus in front of the museum. We are standing in the aisles. I will know you are ready to get off the bus when you are looking at me. Good morning, experts. It’s so wonderful to have you here to help us solve this problem at the museum. Before we enter the museum let’s double check we have our equipment. Look in the bag on your shoulder and pull out your supplies: a yellow pencil, a small pad of paper, and a magnifying glass. Take them out and examine them. Hold on to these special tools Walk down the aisle of the bus, and carefully step down three steps onto the ground. Outside the cool air hits you and you hold your jacket tighter to you as you walk quickly to the museum. You pull open a heavy, tall, glass door and enter the museum. Hold it open as you walk in. It closes behind you. Inside the museum is quiet. You can hear the squeaking of your shoes on the floor as you walk to the front desk. The friendly man at the front desk issues you a badge that identifies you as an expert. Stick it to your shirt. He asks you to report immediately to gallery 3. You walk quickly up one flight of stairs past a series of colorful stain glass windows. You see a man wearing a scarf looking at the paintings in gallery 3. You walk up to him and tap him on the shoulder."


Teacher-In-Role (Mantle of the Expert) Assistant Director for a Museum

"Thank you for coming on such short notice to the Stories through Pictures and Words Art Museum. I have been told that you are experts at looking at art work. I hope you can help me. We just got a shipment of artwork, and I realized that I forgot to bring the titles of artwork along with the picture. I’m really new on the job and don’t quite understand how pictures and titles work. I have to say, I had another horrible situation last week when I forgot to give my boss a message about someone wanting to donate some painting by Van Gogh or something. . . Anyway, my job is on the line here. I need your help. So I have all these pictures and no titles and I have no idea what to do. I’m just so glad that all of you who are experts came today to help me out. This is where I’m hoping since you all know so much about art, that you can help me. Does anyone have any ideas? How can we fix this problem? Let’s begin with this picture."

Describe: What do you see in this picture?

Analyze: What could …. mean? What might be going on?

"So let’s create a title based on this picture and the clues or evidence that you discovered. (Brainstorm ideas.) I have 3 more pictures that I need titled. My boss is going to be back from her break any minute now, so I’m wondering if you all can help me out. Let’s move into groups so we can title these pictures rather quickly. We are going to count off by three to move into groups. Let’s do that now. (students count and move into three groups). In your small group, please study your picture looking for the clues. Then decide on a title for your picture. Please write your title on this strip of paper. (Pass out sentence strip.) Be prepared because I’ll also need to be ready to explain to my boss why we picked these titles. What are the context clues? What are the parts of the picture? (Give some time for exploration and titling, then . . .) Wait a minute. (Encourage all the students to come close.) I just found something. Look! Look at the back of this picture. There’s a description of the picture. Do all the pictures have the description? (Discover that each picture has a description.) There could be some important clues or evidence for the main idea of the picture in these descriptions. Ok, one more thing, now we need everyone to read aloud the description. Then compare it with what you discovered about the picture on the front. Then decide if you want to change the title to better fit the picture and the description. (pass out second sentence strip) We need this to be right on—since our jobs are on the line!"

Work in groups. Once completed the owner of the museum enters (Teacher in Role or UT Drama Specialist)

Museum Owner: What is going on here? Javier, what happened to the pictures? Where are the titles you were supposed to hang?

TIR: I have them right here. My friends were just helping me out. They can let you know the details. (have each group share titles. Have them explain what visual and written information “Clues” helped shape their final title.)

Museum Owner: Not bad, you did a great job. But I need your help for one final task. I need a name for this full exhibition. It’s the topic that includes all of the pictures in it...each title/main idea. What do you think? (group decides on a topic for the art exhibit)

TIR: Fantastic. (some other specific compliments)


"Terrific. We’ll pause our drama here. Thank you for your excellent participation."


"You all did a lot of work today at the museum.  Let's take a moment to reflect on what we accomplished today." 

Describe: What do you remember about what we did today?

Analyze: What did you find out about the main ideas of the pictures?

Reflect:  Describe your experience as an expert in the museum.