Teaching Main Idea and Detail

It's been a while since I had anything teaching-wise to share, with ESL testing and Spring Break, but I'm happy to share what we've been working on for the past week.

I started off our unit by reading a fiction book lower than all of my students' reading levels, because I wanted them to be able to easily comprehend all the words and information.

I began with very general main idea, and held an oral discussion just to get the brainwaves moving.  I used these posters all week to help us understand.  Then we watched a Brainpop Jr. and did the quiz in teams.  My kids are all about team challenges!


The next day, I taught them how to find the Main Idea using the first or last sentence of a paragraph.  Readworks.org has some good lessons on the subject for 3rd grade (free to join!), and we completed their practice page together on the whiteboard.  After that, I used Erin Morrison's amazing fantastic terrific Main Idea Madness pack and let the teams try to find the main idea from the first/last sentence on their own.  

I knew we needed to move on to non-fiction, so we used a social sciences article from my Let's Go Fly a Kite pack and practiced finding the main idea and detail in a multiple paragraph passage.  This was a lot tougher for them, but they trudged through it and ended up doing really well.  

Update 12/9/14: If you are looking for a main idea and detail pack with passages and assessment, click here to find it!

Finally, I had them choose a non-fiction book from the library.  They had a few days to read it, and it could be any topic they wanted.  I read a historical fiction book to them, and we worked on finding the details first, and then writing the main idea based on that. 

After we had learned all of these strategies to find the main idea, I let them make their main idea and detail tables.  We had a "table walk" and they shared with the rest of the class.  We also made kites with the same information, but I forgot to take a picture. 
But, there's more! 

I still had some tricks up my sleeve.  This week we practiced finding the detail that doesn't belong

and we played an awesome game.  Of course we did- I'm all about games, but I totally pretend that I'm not so my kids think I'm tough.  Anyway, it's a super tricky game where you have to decide which sentence is the main idea- there are no details.  If you get it right, you get the meat to your hamburger.  The kids loved it!

Is there anything I forgot? How do you teach Main Idea and Detail? 


  1. The main idea table is really cute. I'm going to be working on main idea/details in nonfiction books very soon. Thanks for sharing!
    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. Great ideas! I like how you let them choose their own books from the library. I was just thinking I needed to do that more. It is on my list for first thing after state testing!

    Eclectic Educating

  3. Thanks for all the ideas! I don't love teaching Main Idea/Supporting Details, so I'm definitely stealing these!

    Across the Hall in 2nd Grade

  4. Oooo, this looks great! It's such a tough skill!! I love the posters and the foldable!!

    Collaboration Cuties


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