Teaching main idea is not an easy task, is it?! When you think about it, it does not seem hard because you’re trying to figure out what a text is about. However, it is much more that that. I’m going to share with you everything you need to teach main idea to first and second graders. This is all in my Main Idea Reading Unit. The only thing not listed is books! You obviously need books and there will be a post coming soon with texts recommended to teach main idea!
Start with a pre-test
It is important to begin every unit with a pre-test. I used to think differently about this, but I think it is important to figure out what your kids know ahead of teaching it. If a good portion of your students grasp the concept of main idea fairly well, then you can differentiate your teaching for those students.
Introduce with an anchor chart
You should always start a mini lesson with an anchor chart for students to look at. The best anchor charts are ones that aren’t filled in already, but that you fill in with your students.
Begin with a whole group sorting activity
I love starting every new comprehension skill with a sorting activity. With this activity, I give each student a card. Some students will get the main idea and some will get the key details. Then, I turn on music and have them walk around until they all find their match. So, in this lesson, the main idea and key details that match would find one another. Then, we come back together on the carpet and the students sit with their match. After discussing what main idea and key detail we found, we tape them to the board to sort them.
Main Idea Mystery Bags
Using mystery bags to teach main idea is not a new concept. I have seen this idea floating around Pinterest since Pinterest became a thing. It’s so popular because it’s an engaging activity that kids enjoy. To set up, get four brown paper sacks. Place four of the same type of items in the bag. These are your key details. Group your students into groups of 4 or 5 and have your groups take turns at each bag, thinking and talking about what the main idea could be of that bag.
Use Reading Passages
Besides using mentor texts to teach main idea, I love to use short reading passages as well. These reading passages are typically about five sentences long, so you will more than likely need to read them to the majority of your class. I make them five sentences so that there is a clear topic sentence and closing sentence. Then, the three sentences in the middle are for the three key details. When writing these passages, I structured them so that students could differentiate between the main idea and the key details.
Write The Room Activity
Write The Room activities have always been a popular one in my classroom. I hang the cards up around the room and students go in pairs with their clipboards and recording sheets to each card and answer the question. I have used Write The Room activities in math a lot, but I particularly love them for a reading comprehension skill.
Who doesn’t love a great craftivity? You know, I will say that I’ve had people in the past tell me that making crafts for skills takes away the rigor. I hate that people think that way because teaching and learning is so much more than rigor! Sorry, minor soapbox. Our primary students still need to work on their fine motor skills and that comes from cutting, coloring, and gluing. So, this is why I love using a craftivity with my comprehension lessons.
Small Group Work
Teaching the comprehension skill with your small groups is vital. This is where you get to differentiate among your students. These main idea ladders are a fun warm-up to your guided reading lesson. Students look at the card and clip the pictures that wouldn’t be key details of the main idea. These lead into great discussions about what else could be a key detail for the main idea or what main idea would those pictures fit with.
Giving students the opportunity to further practice identifying the main idea and key details is important. By incorporating the skill into their centers, students get to practice alone, but also with their group.
Main Idea Bookmarks (it’s free!)
I love passing out comprehension bookmarks to students for their independent reading time. It’s a great way to reinforce the skills they are learning and help teach main idea! Want to add these main idea bookmarks to your reading block? Leave your email below and it will be sent right to your inbox! Ready to save time and plan your main idea unit right now? Click here to purchase the main idea reading unit.
Find all the activities listed: Main Idea Reading Unit
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