Main Idea Lesson Plans

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Main idea lesson plans are just guidelines that allow you to have consistency in helping your child to read well. Being able to pick out the main idea of a story, report, or paragraph is imperative to comprehension. In addition, most state tests assess the student's proficiency in this area.

What Is the Main Idea?

The main idea of a story or other writing is simply the point that the author is making. The main idea will often be stated in the topic sentence, which is found somewhere at the beginning of the piece of writing. The details used to support the topic sentence give paragraph clarity. Students can learn to identify the main idea and supporting details in a paragraph, a series of paragraphs, or an entire book. By being able to find the main idea in an author's work they will eventually be able to implement this clarity in their own writing.

It is easier for younger students to find the main idea in nonfiction than fiction. You can spark understanding by asking questions like, "What is the author trying to say?" or, "What do you think this is about?"

Remember that learning to find the main idea in a story is an ongoing process that will begin in the early years of education and continue on throughout college. Rather than there being a single main idea lesson plan, you will want to implement a variety of activities in each lesson to practice this skill.

As students become more experienced with this skill, they will need to begin looking for the main idea in a variety of locations within an article. Some of these are:

  • Title
  • First sentence
  • Center of a passage
  • Last line
  • Implied but not stated

Activities to Help Students Get the Main Idea

There are a number of ways you can teach the main idea to your child. Methods vary, depending on the child's age.

Preschool and Young Elementary

Young children can be taught to find the main idea of a story by illustrating a story that you have read to them. Read a short story like The Ugly Duckling. Ask them what they think was important about the story. Discuss the details and then have them illustrate the story.

You can also have them choose a person and write (or narrate) four facts about that person.

Older Elementary

Older elementary students need to begin to look for details that support the main idea. Choose a short piece of writing and discuss what the main idea of it was. Have them draw a cloud with the main idea written inside.

Now, have the students draw spokes out from the cloud and make smaller clouds. In these clouds they should write the details the author used to support the main idea.

Older Students

Read a newspaper article. Use a yellow highlighter to mark the main idea of the article. Using a pink highlighter, mark the details that support the main idea.

You can also discuss movies and television shows to practice finding the main idea. The more you practice the easier it is to find.

Links to Main Idea Lesson Plans

Sometimes a worksheet or an online game can make the lesson click with your child. Here are some links to a variety of lesson helps for different grades. There are many websites with worksheets, interactive games, and other lesson helps on the Internet. Here are a few to get you started.

Outlining Main Ideas and Details - This week long unit will help six through eighth grade students evaluate writing and participate in a discussion about what the author was trying to say.

Finding the Main Idea - Young students in first and second grade will listen to a story and then illustrate the main idea.

What Sentence Does Not Belong?- A worksheet for older elementary students that helps them to understand how sentences back up the main idea.


Most conventional curriculum like A Beka or Bob Jones will have skills like finding the main idea built into lessons rather than having separate main idea lesson plans. If you are not using a conventional curriculum, then finding the main idea will usually happen naturally as a process of reading for information.

If your child has trouble finding the main idea, make sure that he is reading a book slightly below his reading level. You want it to be easy for him to find the details he is looking for. Reading an easier book will allow him to concentrate on details rather than on sounding out and interpreting difficult words.

Learning to find the main idea is an important reading skill that contributes to comprehension and understanding in all subjects.

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Main Idea Lesson Plans