Neal Kaplan I'm a director of technical communications working for a data analysis startup in Redwood City. I started as a technical writer, and since then I've also been learning about information architecture, training, content strategy, and even something about customer support. I'm also passionate about cross-team collaboration and user communities.

How do you teach main ideas and key details?

3 min read

One of the most overlooked strategies that can be used to teach is a read aloud. Modeling your thinking process out loud is important when reading aloud to your students. Encourage the students to look at the cover of the book by covering it up.

How do you explain main idea and key details?

The “key concept” is what the main idea is about. The main idea can be supported by details, major and minor. Locating the topic, main idea, and supporting details helps you understand what the writer is trying to say.

How do you teach students about key details?

  • The lesson is small. Put a piece down at a time and ask the students what they see.
  • There is a center activity.
  • The practice is independent.
  • The task is to write.
  • It is an assessment.

In order to demonstrate their understanding of main idea and key details, students will complete an open-ended written response to a text. I differentiate the text at different levels, but it gives me a good idea of where my students are in regards to mastery of the standard.

A high-interest text is always included to help determine the main idea and key details. Are you interested in teaching main idea and key details in your classroom?

If you would like to have all of these resources put together in a nice, neat package for you to just print and use in your classroom tomorrow, I have done all the hard work for you and listed it in my TeachersPayTeachers store HERE. We can all benefit from these fun ways to teach main idea and key details in our classrooms if we share this post with our teacher friends on social media. I’ve been teaching for a long time and one thing that hasn’t changed is how hard it is for my students to find the main idea of a text. I make sure to provide bothorwording based on the standards of the state.

How do you teach the main idea?

  • An anchor chart is what you should start with. I like to use anchor charts in my classroom.
  • Pictures can be used to use.
  • Emphasize titles.
  • Look at the first and last words.
  • Key words can be used.
  • The supporting details should be compared to the main idea.
  • Use examples and non-examples.
  • Prioritize the information you have.

When faced with the task, kids have to comprehend the passage, but also figure out which information is the most important, without getting lost in the details. Even though upper grade students have been introduced to the main idea, they still need a lot of practice.

It’s always good to use a variety of tools and activities in order to reach as many kids as possible for the main idea. Students are able to read them over and over while completing work independently because they are a great tool to refer to while teaching. This is a baby step and we wouldn’t want to stop there in the upper grades, but it makes for a great introductory activity. It’s time to read the passage and find the main idea and supporting details once you’ve done some practice with titles.

It’s a skill that must be taught, and that’s why Keywords are a good tool to help find the main idea. A scavenger hunt with baskets of nonfiction books is a good way to practice finding bolded words. Put students in pairs or in groups of threes and have them use sticky notes to record any bolded phrases that they find.

The title and bolded words of the book should be given to the kids so they can combine them to create a main idea statement. Kids need to be on the lookout for the same concepts over and over within the passage, even when the author uses a different synonym. Readers find the main idea with headings and subheadings. Kids are more likely to be able to identify the main idea if they combine the information from all three types.

You can find measuring cups, silverware, pots, and pans inside the box if the label on the box says Kitchen Items. One activity that I like to do is to look at a paragraph together and then show them the main idea and three supporting details listed in mixed-up order.

When the main idea is included in a set of four choices, it’s much easier to figure it out. When students are able to practice this with you and with their classmates in small groups, this gives them the reinforcement they need to master this skill. One way to work on this is to read a paragraph and then look at a set of four main ideas that were posted on the Smart Board. To do this, I like to have my students write their answers on the shower board that is cut down at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Students should be reminded of the strategies we’ve been using, like first and last sentences, and big ideas vs. small details. Sign up for The Teacher Next Door’s free email newsletter to get more ideas and strategies for upper elementary.

You’ll get access to my free Resource Library which contains exclusive upper elementary freebies that you won’t find anywhere else.

How do you teach main ideas and details to first graders?

  • It is a good idea to read a very brief paragraph to the class.
  • Ask students what the paragraph was about.
  • How to sum up a paragraph in a few words is a model for them.
  • There is another paragraph to be read.

Students can use what they’ve learned to sum up the paragraph. Students need to understand the main idea before repeating. To get students to synthesise a large amount of information is the primary purpose.

How do you explain main idea to first grade?

A short passage from one of your stories will help your students understand what a main idea of a story is. The students should tell you what the story was about in one sentence. The main idea of the story is the summary they’re generating.

Do you teach main idea or details first?

The main idea should be supported by a paragraph that has a very clear main idea. Adding a sentence to a paragraph that is somewhat on topic doesn’t support the main idea of the paragraph.

Neal Kaplan I'm a director of technical communications working for a data analysis startup in Redwood City. I started as a technical writer, and since then I've also been learning about information architecture, training, content strategy, and even something about customer support. I'm also passionate about cross-team collaboration and user communities.

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