Establishing the Main Idea

An important task of reading comprehension is to determine the importance and meanings of individual words, sentences, paragraphs, sections, chapters, and entire texts. This article will help you teach your students about finding the main idea while they are reading.
Grades:
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2 |
3 |
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7
Updated: June 9, 2019
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When Can You Use It?

Reading

Give students a piece of informative writing that relates to a unit you are studying or an author you are reading. Have them create a word web to identify the topic, the main idea, and the supporting details of the passage.

Writing

Write a short paragraph that does not contain a topic sentence and have students write a topic sentence for that paragraph. Then, assign each student a topic that he or she knows something about. Challenge them to write a short paragraph that relates to the topic but doesn't have a topic sentence. Pair students and have each student write a topic sentence for his or her partner's paragraph.

Math

Have students choose a section or chapter from their math textbook and read the introduction to the section or chapter, recording the main idea and supporting details in a graphic organizer. Have groups of students use their graphic organizers to introduce the section or chapter to the rest of the class.

Social Studies

Have a "Current Events" day during which you bring interesting articles about current affairs from a newspaper into class. (You can also assign this as a homework assignment.) Distribute articles to pairs of students and have them use their graphic organizers to record the topic, the main idea, and the supporting details. Then, have the pairs use their graphic organizers as notes to help them summarize their article for the class.

Science

Assign students a paragraph from their science textbook. Have each student identify the main idea and supporting details of the paragraphs and then record the supporting details in a word web, leaving the main idea section blank. Pair students and have them exchange papers. Ask them to fill in the topic and main idea sections of their partners' word web based on the supporting details.

Lesson Plans

Main Idea: Chrysanthemum
This lesson is designed to introduce primary students to finding the main idea as a reading comprehension strategy. The lesson asks students to choose the main idea for sections of the story from a few possible choices. This is the first lesson in a set designed to teach students how to find the main idea of a story.

Main Idea: Animals Born Alive and Well
This lesson is designed to help primary students continue working to find the main idea as a reading comprehension strategy. The lesson asks students to make lists of what mammals have in common and to choose the story's main idea. This is the second lesson in a set designed to teach students how to find the main idea of a story.

Main Idea: The Great Kapok Tree
This lesson is designed to continue working with primary students to find the main idea as a reading comprehension strategy. The lesson asks students to complete graphic organizers to find the main idea of each page and to then tell the main idea of the story. This is the third lesson in a set designed to teach about the main idea of a story.

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