How to Teach Main Idea

Raise your hand if you struggle with teaching kids how to find the main idea in a text?

I think it’s one of the trickiest things for kids to grasp.

Last week the main selection in our reading curriculum (Treasures in case you were wondering) was a non-fiction article and the focus skill was main idea. We had completedan overview of all genresat the start of the school year, but it was time to roll up our sleeves and really dig into some non-fiction. 

To keep it all focused and feed into their craving for all things Halloween(ish) I planned a week ofbat research…but you already knew that because I wrote all about it yesterday{if you missed it you can read it here and check out some cool bat craft activities to make with your kids}.

Between teaching it in school that day and helping my own 2nd grader with his main idea and details homework that afternoon, I had main idea on the brain.

Even later in the evening when I was building blocks with my twins.

And that was when I had an “Ah ha Moment!”

The next day I grabbed some blocks from my math manipulatives, an index card, a pair of scissors, somePost-It Notes, a marker and a non-fiction text. I placed the sticky part of the sticky note onto a block, folded it over and cut along the crease. This gave me sticky papers that were the exact same size as each block.

Next, I wrote sentences from the text that would be considered “supporting details.” The students read the details and decided what the main idea of all the blocks together would be. That was written on the card….which was then literally supported by the details.

It seemed like the visual really helped some of my friends to gain a better understanding of the concept. 

I then created several collections of blocks and recorded sentences onto each. I placed them out on my back counter with colored cards that coordinated with the blocks. The kiddos then worked in pairs to write out cards with what they considered to be the main idea.

They loved the hands-on aspect and the visual and did quite well with identifying the main idea. I’m planning to add this in as aREADer’s Workshop station throughout the year and will use this approach backwards in Writer’s Workshop as well.

Do you have any tips or tricks for teaching main idea and details?

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