One of my biggest frustrations when teaching main idea has always been: How do I teach it so that students can not only identify the stated main idea but also determine it when not explicitly stated?
It can be a struggle to find a variety of activities that offered both options of practice. My students need to practice this skill in multiple formats that increase in difficulty as they learn. Students need to move from a basic understanding of the concept to becoming proficient at identifying the main idea and eventually creating their own main idea sentences. Since I couldn’t find the activities my students needed, I decided to make them myself.
Introduce with a Hands-On Lesson
I always like to teach a new concept with a hands-on activity, so I created an interactive notebook lesson. Don’t worry! I know the struggles that come with interactive notebook activities. If you’d like to know how to implement interactive notebooks completely stress-free with absolutely no extra effort on your part, I’ve got you covered. Click here to read that blog post.
My first interactive notebook lesson covers stated main idea and includes a video lesson. The reading passage focuses on how owls hunt at night. After reading the paragraph, students determine what the main idea is by analyzing the detail sentences. After highlighting the main idea and details, they can jot down some notes and add a title.[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AATplPywuw0[/embedyt]
Follow Up with a Main Idea & Details Race Freebie
Using a fast-paced, engaging activity is a great way to get kids excited about the new concept while giving them some practice applying what they’ve already learned. This activity includes four paragraphs about theme parks, each focusing on a different aspect. You’ll need to cut the main ideas and details apart and mix them together before students begin the race. Have your students work in groups of 4-5 to sort the sentences into related categories (rides, food, entertainment, games). Then they need to determine each main idea and place those sentences at the top of every paragraph.
My students always love a fun competition, so that’s why I call it a race! When a group finishes, they all raise their hands. I walk by and quickly assess their paragraphs and give them hints if they have errors. Then they can work to make corrections. I usually offer some small prizes (stickers, candy, tokens) for the groups and announce 1st, 2nd, 3rd place, and so on. I always reward everyone because I want them to finish the activity with a positive attitude- but that’s just me.
If you have younger or struggling students, you can copy the main idea sentences onto a different colored paper or mark it with a sticker so students can easily identify them. Then they will only have to sort the details. Another less challenging option would be to give each group only two paragraphs to sort and then have them switch and sort the remaining two paragraphs.
Now you can get some valuable feedback on each student’s grasp of the concept with some independent work:
Main Idea Sort (left)- This is similar to the race activity but with only two paragraphs to sort.
Matching Main Ideas & Details (right)- Students examine four main ideas and determine which details go with each one.
Matching Main Ideas & Details Maze- Students make their way through the maze by coloring only the statements that support the main idea. Then they can use the recording sheet to explain their thinking and write a paragraph.
Practice with a Craftivity or Graphic Organizer
Now your students can put what they’ve learned to the test with one of these engaging activities. There are also videos that go along with both paragraphs, which makes them way more fun!
The House Graphic Organizer is perfect for a quick review of main idea and details, and I have also included a version of the page with explanations of the terms for students to reference.
This wraps up the first week of main idea instruction! The following week is where we’ll kick our main idea lessons up a notch!
Be sure to take a look at my Main Idea Unit, which includes all of these activities, Google Slides versions of most activities, and more!