Teaching Main Idea and Details

It’s time for our non-fiction unit! This is one of my favorites because kids just love learning amazing facts. It’s fun to watch them become little “teachers” to their peers, sharing what they learn and have become experts on.

One essential skill we cover in this unit is finding the main idea and details. Here I’ve included ideas for helping your students learn to identify the main idea and details in text.

Main Idea and Details can be a difficult concept for beginning readers. Read this blog post for tips and resources to help your students with this essential comprehension strategy! #tejedastots #mainideaanddetails

It’s not always easy for little learners to grasp the concept of main idea and details. It’s helpful to break down this skill into easy-to-follow steps.

Main Topic vs. Main Idea

Beginning readers can have a hard time distinguishing the main idea from the topic, often using just 1 or 2 words to tell the main idea. This is really the main topic and is a stepping stone to understanding main idea.

When kids can identify the main topic, I explain that the main idea is a complete sentence about the topic. I challenge them to think a little deeper to name the most important message about it. You can use the prompt, “The main idea is that…” to help them form a complete thought.

The jump from topic to main idea is taken step-by-step in my Main Idea PowerPoint presentation. This slideshow explains main idea and details and demonstrates how to identify them.

Here are a few slides from the interactive PowerPoint.

These cut and paste passages are perfect for a follow-up activity. It may be hard for students to independently identify the main idea and details right away, so just having to sort sentences is a helpful beginning activity.

For beginners, these coloring activities are perfect for identifying details that support the main idea.

These differentiated reading passages also help kids practice finding the main idea and details.

Main Idea Centers and Guided Reading Activities

Of course, students can also practice this skill during centers!

Here, students read the main idea flowerpot and find the matching detail flowers. It’s differentiated to be played with either pictures or words.

Main Idea and Detail Flowerpot center activity: differentiated- with pictures or text

In this craft, students cut and paste the flowerpot by matching the main idea middles to the detail petals.

These writing pages are scaffolded (with and without sentence stem).

One of my favorite resources to use during guided reading is this set of task cards. Each card has 4-5 pictures and kids identify the topic (beginners) or main idea.

For more advanced students, these can also be used in a notebook or to play Scoot. Scoot directions and recording sheets included.

Games for Practicing Main Idea and Details

  • Mystery Trait: call up kids that have something in common: girls/boys, glasses, clothing color, jewelry, hairstyle. Have kids find what they have in common. To make it more challenging, think of other things besides the physical- kids who sit at a particular table, are known for playing soccer, had a birthday that month, etc.
  • Guess the Title: Before reading a non-fiction book, cover the title (make sure to cover the title page and back cover, so kids don’t spot it accidentally!) After reading, have kids tell what the book was mostly about and guess the title! Some book suggestions: A Frog’s Life, From Caterpillar to Butterfly, Who Would Win series, What if You Had Animal Teeth?, Animals in Winter
  • Give the Details: ask 3 kids to come up and whisper the main idea to them. Have them take turns giving details to the rest of the class until someone guesses it. Sample main ideas: There are lots of things you can eat for breakfast. Many animals live on a farm. You can help people in many ways.
  • Details: One of my favorite activities- a carousel. Write a main idea on each of 5 charts. Hang up around the room and have kids work in groups to write as many details as they can think of. Afterwards, read each chart and confirm that all of the details support the main idea.

Posters and Graphic Organizers

Of course, you’ll want some display posters to sum up how to identify the main idea. I’ve got you covered! My Main Idea & Details bundle also includes posters and bookmarks for reference while reading.

Plus, I included a variety of graphic organizers you can use with any book.

You can find everything you see in this post in my Main Idea & Details bundle! It even includes an optional character (Main Idea Moose) you can use to represent this comprehension strategy.

*NOW, this is also available in digital format, with audio for the slideshow presentation!

I also have a bundle of FOUR comprehension strategy packs. Save with the bundle and have resources for Main Idea, Comparing & Contrasting, Making Inferences, and Sequencing! Please note this bundle does NOT include the digital version. The digital Main Idea pack is available separately here.

Get a free sample of the Main Idea bundle here: FREE Main Idea Printables

If you liked this post, you may also like the following reading comprehension posts:

Teaching Kids to Compare & Contrast

How to Teach Making Inferences

Teaching Sequencing Skills

Read about teaching Decoding Strategies here:

Tips for Teaching Decoding Strategies

Using Big Books to Teach Decoding Strategies

Order of Teaching Beanie Baby Reading Strategies

Want FREE Reading Comprehension Task Cards? Sign up below and get an instant download sent right to your mailbox!

como mucho

28 responses to “Teaching Main Idea and Details”

  1. Lynn Avatar

    This looks great! We are working on Main idea now . My kids love your compare and contrast activities!

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Hi, Lynn! Thanks so much! 馃檪

  2. Rebecca Parker Avatar
    Rebecca Parker

    This is such a hard concept for kids! Thanks for the post!

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Yes, it definitely is for many! Thanks, Rebecca!

  3. Micaela Andrew Avatar
    Micaela Andrew

    Wow! What a great resource! Teaching main idea is not my strong point, but this bundle (especially with the pictures) makes everything so clear! I could totally use this in my classroom (:

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thanks, Micaela! It can definitely be a tricky concept to teach. But, don’t worry; this pack makes it easy and everything is laid out nicely, ready to go! 馃檪

  4. Lorena Avatar

    This is such a fun and interactive way to learn this concept! I love it!

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thanks, Lorena!

  5. Lauren Avatar

    This is another amazing bundle. I love the writing pages that really encourage students to articulate the main idea and its supporting details.

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thanks so much, Lauren. Those are some of my favorites!

  6. Joni McCulloch Avatar
    Joni McCulloch

    I think that would work well for my higher functioning Autistic students. It looks like a great resource!

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thanks, Joni!

  7. Angela Avatar

    So many great activities and ideas to teach main idea and detail! This would be wonderful to use in my classroom!

  8. Dee Avatar

    I love the idea of the mystery trait game. Your task cards are a good fit for this. Thank you for the wonderful ideas here, I tried your main idea flowerpot and it was a hit!
    I would love to use your comprehension strategies with the SEN kids I teach.

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Hi, Dee! Yay, glad they loved the flowerpot! 馃檪 Thank you!

  9. Marge Baum Avatar
    Marge Baum

    This is an awesome way to help children learn main idea and details. I can also use this to help students answer when, where, why, who and how questions.

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Yes, definitely! Thank you! 馃檪

  10. Kathleen Avatar

    Wow! This looks amazing! I could totally use this resource with my kinder kiddos.

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thank you, Kathleen!

  11. Joyce Avatar

    Looks amazing!!!

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thank you, Joyce!

  12. Sarah Shobe Avatar
    Sarah Shobe

    I love this! Anything I have purchased from you has been wonderful!

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thank you so much, Sarah! 馃檪

  13. Catherine Richard Avatar
    Catherine Richard

    I love your resources for so many reasons, but one of them is that you GET that multiple levels exist in one classroom! The main idea materials are just right for young learners: motivating, do-able, but also worth doing. Thank you!

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Thank you so much, Catherine! It’s so important to differentiate. We want all of our learners to feel successful and grow.

  14. facultell Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this post,
    is very helpful article.

    1. Brenda Avatar

      I’m glad you find it helpful, thank you!

  15. […] As we read informational texts, we often discuss main idea and details. Read my blog post on helping your students identify the main idea and details: Teaching Main Idea and Details […]

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