5 Main Idea Activities

› Main Idea Activities

Are you looking for some new ways to teach main idea?  These activities make it easier and engaging for your kids.

Here's an super easy one for you:  try using pictures to describe the main idea!  

It's not always obvious to students what the point of a text is. So many of them get lost in the details or what they thought was the most interesting thing.

Teaching about finding the main idea doesn't have to be simply a one-time lesson.  

This is a difficult skill that is best mastered through continual repetition by incorporating it into all subject areas and lots of revisiting.

Getting the Main Idea Lessons

10 Words of Less for Finding the Main IdeaFinding the Main Idea of a Picture
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  • A Picture Is Worth 10 Words or Less
    Younger students often need the support a picture gives, especially during first exposures to deeper literacy lessons. Meaning is derived from pictures that we use to support a text. This lesson is guaranteed to be a hit with your class.

    Use book covers, illustrations...anything you can get your hands on. The key is that the illustrations are rich and vivid. In the image at the beginning of the page, I used a fun picture of my son at a beachside carnival.

    Challenge the students to state what is happening in the picture in 10 words or less. They have to ignore the little details and get the overall meaning. 

    You could even have them set up as stations and the class could rotate through them. Allow time for sharing at the end and choosing the best sentence that describes each picture.
  • Give Me Five
    Use your hand to tap into the kinesthetic learning style for main idea activities. 

    Give students a paper hand and have them write five details from the text. Write the inferred main idea on the palm. Instruct them to fold their fingers over to make a fist. This shows that the main idea is what supports all of the details.

    Differentiate it by having more able students make a bracelet to go around the wrist that is a short summary statement of the text. This is a great technique for main idea in reading comprehension!

  • Sort and Share
    Prior to this reading comprehension lesson, you will need to have selected short non-fiction reading passages and have written 5-6 relevant main idea topics on separate pieces of chart paper. These should be placed around the room as students will be sorting their details on them. 

    Place students into small groups. Give each group an appropriate short non-fiction text and some sticky notes (short articles work best for this main idea activity). Ask them to read the text together.

    Next, each student must write four or five sticky notes with an interesting fact on each one.

    Once they have written their sticky notes, they will need to go around the room and find the appropriate main idea heading to put their sticky note on.  

    Sort the students again, but this time assign them a chart paper. They are to write a page about their topic that includes the sticky note details. These pages can be compiled into a class book.

  • Main Idea Video

  • Two-Word-Weekend
    Challenge students to tell you what they did over the weekend with only two words (this is my students favorite of all the main idea activities we do). 

    For example, "Mom-Soccer" means that the child's mom took him to soccer. "Sister-Birthday" means that a student's sister had a birthday party.

    An alternate way of doing this would be for each student to write their two words on a sticky note first thing Monday morning. They can place their notes on a designated spot. Later, you can pull two sticky notes off and ask the students to provide the details about their weekend!

two word weekend activity for teaching main idea
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Main Idea Worksheets

Here are some awesome main idea activities for any rockstar teacher. These 14 lesson plans are in a super easy to use format.  

They don't take long at all to do, yet are highly effective. Your students will:

  • locate the most important sentences
  • write the main idea as a question
  • use inferencing to locate the main idea
  • write tightly focused paragraphs using given details

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