Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this free online reading and writing lesson plan, designed for grade 8 and adaptable for grade 9, students use BrainPOP resources to practice finding and inferring the main idea of a text selection. Students will then use a free online game to apply their reading skills to a real-world context.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text. (RI.8.2)
  2. Apply main idea and other reading skills to real-world problem solving and career-related scenarios through online game play.


  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP


The Sports Network-2 (TSN-2) is a learning game and assessment tool for 8th grade struggling readers. The game is the result of a 2011 Next Generations Learning Challenges (NGLC) grant. The grant called for innovative solutions to help students meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Classroom, Inc. answered the call by developing an engaging learning game that assesses students' performance in key CCSS for Reading Informational Text. The game covers each of its target standards multiple times and uses more than one approach per standard. TSN-2 was designed to improve students’ proficiency on 8th grade CCSS for reading informational text. Students read in a setting that is relevant, fun, and that uses many of the gaming features they know and love.

From the moment your students choose the avatar that will represent them as Managing Director of TSN-2, they will be immersed in the fast-paced modern environment of a cable news sports network. Able to control where they—as avatar—move within the office and which colleagues they talk to, students explore many aspects of a thriving workplace, from how to deal with their peers to using the contemporary technologies found at the network. They come to know the strengths, weaknesses, and quirks of their colleagues. They listen to jokes and to small talk, but they can never wander away from the work of the day—a series of activities assessing reading and their understanding of informational text.

BrainPOP's GameUp features a segment of TSN-2’s Quest 4, which focuses on one of the game’s target CCSS main idea standards. (RI.8.2). To prepare for this lesson, preview the activities, game, and BrainPOP resources, and ensure you're familiar with the corresponding CCSS RI.8.2 (spelled out under Objectives). You can view the complete TSN-2 teacher guide for more detailed information about the full game.

* Please note that TSN-2's embedded assessments are directly tied to selected reading CCSS for 8th Grade. If you are using TSN-2 to assess your 8th grade students, you will want them to play the game individually rather than collaboratively.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Activate students' prior knowledge by playing the Main Idea movie for the class. Talk about the difference between a stated main idea and an unstated main idea, one that readers must infer themselves.

  2. Practice identifying the main idea of a text together, either by projecting a pre-selected text for the class to see or by reading it aloud. You may want to use the Activity, or select an appropriate 2-3 paragraph selection of your own (possibly something related to a careers theme or the sports theme of the TSN-2 game.) Talk with students about the major point the author is making and the clues in the text that indicate the main idea.

  3. Ask students why they might need to determine the main idea of a text in real life or in their future careers. You can show the Careers Related Reading page to facilitate the discussion, and guide students to understand how TV and news writers are responsible for identifying the central idea and most important details of a story they're covering. To help students identify the main idea of the piece, you might want to ask questions such as, What is an editor? and What two kinds of editors does the article identify? A useful exercise in getting students to identify a main idea is to ask them to come up with a title that best summarizes a passage. You may wish to have students do this for the career article. (Examples of titles reflecting the main idea are “The Basics of an Editor’s Job” and “What Does an Editor Do?”)

  4. Tell students they will have the opportunity to play a simulation in which they experience being the managing director of a cable sports network. Project the TSN-2 game for the class. To further prepare students, you may want to review with them the brief initial tutorial—the three slides that precede game play.

  5. Game play begins in the Bullpen with Jackson. Jackson has a green arrow over his head and the player says, "Today's the day we interview Reese Cooling." Allow students to explore the game either independently or in pairs. The path students follow include these interactions and activities: Complete interview tips (Text Analyzer);˜ Complete interview preparation (Writing Activity); Read "Today's Interview" e-mail from Dan Bradley, Director of Programming;˜ Talk to Managing Director’s assistant, Jackson Rice, who sends the player to the Studio;˜ Talk to TSN-2 high-school intern, Victor Silva;˜ Complete interview questions (Idea Centralizer);˜ Respond to Victor (Writing Activity);˜ Talk to TSN-2 on-air personality, Selena Aguilar; talk to Victor;˜ and Interview Reese Cooling, Coordinator of Sunny Skate Park.

  6. Consider having students take a screenshot in order to capture their open-ended responses for the Email to Selena on Interview Preparation and the Response to Victor Email. A built-in snapshot tool that allows students to caption their images is available for My BrainPOP users. You can also use the print feature at the end of the game and have students submit their answers for all the tasks to you at once.

  7. After students have finished playing, bring them together for a whole-class discussion. What strategies did they use for game play? How did their understanding of main idea help them experience success in the game? Do they think their avatar did a good job interviewing Reese Cooling? Why or why not?

  8. If time allows, plan an extension activity for students who finish early, such as exploring the other BrainPOP resources for main idea or Reading Skills.

  9. Have students use the print feature at the end of the game to create a report on their game play. You can also assess student learning using the BrainPOP Main Idea Quiz, Activity, or Graphic Organizer.

Extension Activities:

As a follow-up activity, have pairs of student volunteers conduct an interview for the class, with one student assuming the role of a sports newscaster and another the role of a sports star of his or her choosing.˜ Give pairs time to prepare their questions. If you’d like, and each student or pair has access to a computer, suggest they research the sports star as homework, in preparation for an interview the next day. The student playing the newscaster should also write 6-8 questions.

The next day, have students conduct their interview before the class. Afterwards, lead a class discussion in which the audience addresses these questions: How well did the interviewer (the newscaster) prepare? What is your evidence? Were the questions on topic and relevant? Give examples. Describe the interviewer’s on-air conduct. Did the interviewer's “on-air conduct” demonstrate that she or he understood Selena’s tips on this topic? Explain.

You can also have students complete Jam Session #4 of the TSN-2 teacher guide.