Monday, January 23, 2012

Finding the Main Idea

I taught a lesson on main idea this morning and wanted to share it with you.

I began the lesson by having students "unpack" the main idea. In a bag, I had a toothbrush, dental floss, toothpaste, and mouthwash. I had students take turns unpacking one of the items from my bag, showing it to the class, and telling what it was. Once all of the items were unpacked, I had students turn and talk about what they thought the big idea of the items in my bag was. I charted their ideas. Then we narrowed all of their thoughts down to one big idea.

Next I explained that the main idea of a text is what the text is mainly about. I talked about how the main idea of a piece is the glue that holds it all together. I gave these examples: the main idea of a recipe for chocolate chip cookies is that if you follow the steps you can make cookies, if we want to write a book about our school, then every page has to have something about our school on it, etc.

Then I read a passage I found on It was a short passage about baseball. I read the passage twice to make sure students were given the opportunity to listen to the content as well as think of the details to determine the best main idea. I used this passage to model thinking aloud for the students. I considered the title, all of the details mentioned in the story, and what I think the main idea is. I brought the discussion down to two possible choices for the main idea. Then I had students help me figure out which one made the best choice and why.

Kobe loves baseball! He watches it on TV, he plays every day at recess, and he is on a baseball team. Kobe has five baseball posters hanging in his room. When Kobe gets home from school, the first thing he does is change into a baseball shirt and grab his ball and mitt. He is always asking his mom to play catch with him in the park. 

What is the main idea?
1. Kobe likes to play with his mom. 
2. Kobe loves baseball.

Finally, we wrapped up the lesson by reading The Snowy Day and finding the main idea together. After looking at the cover and reading the first few pages, I had students turn and talk to each other about what they already thought the main idea might be. Then they shared their ideas. I continued to read, pointing out details in the text such as Peter running outside and going out right after breakfast to bring out the idea that Peter loved the snow and was in a hurry to get to it. I asked questions along the way that brought up how he must feel if he wanted to save the snow, if he was sad when it melted, and if he talked and thought all about it a lot. After reading the story, we decided what we thought the main idea of the story was. Then we charted the details from the story that supported our thoughts.
After modeling main idea several times, students should be able to fill out similar graphic organizers on main idea for themselves.

Unrelated to main idea, I love Mrs. Williamson's (Welcome to Room 36) text to self connections using The Snowy Day in her post The Snowy Day.


Lisa Howard said...

Great lesson! I love the hook at the start for getting their attention and explaining your point. Way to go!
Lisa from

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Jessica said...

Thank you!!! Great lesson.

Lori said...

Great way to teach main idea and text connections!
Conversations in Literacy

Jennifer said...

What a great lesson! I love the idea of unpacking the main idea. I think I'm going to have to do this in my class!
Rowdy in First Grade

Erin said...

I'm your newest follower! I love your lesson on teaching the main idea of a text. I'm going to use it with my first graders this week! Thanks again!

Projects & Polkadots

Jen R. (The Teachers' Cauldron) said...

what a cute and simple way of going about Main Idea! thanks!

♥ Jen
The Teachers' Cauldron

Anonymous said...

I just used The Snowy Day for main idea as well. We had spent a couple of weeks working on main idea so we were focusing on the relationship between titles and the main idea. I gave them the title to brainstorm details that might happen in the book, then we read for confirmation. They loved how almost all of their ideas appeared in the book.

Anonymous said...

Great Lesson. Looking forward to trying it out in my class.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your input about Main idea. I love your lesson.

Kari S. said...

I love your ideas for teaching main idea. After a recent assessment, this is something I need to reteach, and I am definitely going to use some of your ideas. Thank you so much for sharing! I love your blog!

packergrl611 said...

I have been searching for ideas for teaching main idea and this is great! We are currently teaching about weather and seasons and I have my formal observation coming up as well. I think I am going to borrow some of your ideas. Thanks for sharing!

Amy Mika said...

I love it! Do you have any book ideas for nonfiction books to teach Main Idea? I want to teach Main Idea using informational text.

Janely said...

I would love to get the template for Peter in the red snowsuit. I love your bulletin board idea.

Mrs. Larremore said...

I actually just free handed that drawing. There are several pictures in the book that would be easy to photocopy and make a pattern out of.

Jessica said...

This is an AMAZING introduction to main idea! My whole kindergarten team is going to use your ideas next week! Thank you for sharing! =)

Ashley said...

I just want to say how appreciative I am that you posted this lesson. I used it for my formal observation today but changed the book to Turkey Surprise. I got a great response from my assistant principal.