Saturday, November 12, 2011

A "Hands-on" Way of Teaching Main Idea

This week my third graders were focusing on main idea as their reading skill. Here are a couple of highlights from teaching the concept. First, we talked about how main idea is what the story is mostly about, and I created this anchor chart comparing main idea to a roof. Just like you have to have pillars to hold up a roof, you also have to have details to hold up a main idea. If you can find only one or two details to hold up what you think is the main idea, then it's probably not the main idea.

The next high point came in using an idea I saw on Pinterest. Students traced their hand on a piece of construction paper. I had them choose a page in the reading story for the week and write the main idea on the palm. Then details went on each finger. Again, I emphasized that we need all of our fingers so they needed to find that many details or the hand wouldn't work. Here are a couple of examples of the hands.

It seemed to be a more creative and practical way of reinforcing the concept of main idea.


  1. Two terrific ideas! Thanks for sharing. :-)

  2. Could we just clarity that this strategy is most effective for expository text. When dealing with main idea in narratives, it is important to consider the details in terms of events vs details. That said, it is a wonderfully creative way to show students connections. If using it in expository text, I would also add the Topic and Central Idea of the selection to ensure all the main ideas relate to the authors message about the topic. ...what can I say, I'm always a stickler for structure. Thanks for sharing Rachel :)

  3. Also remember, in expository text, every sentence in the paragraph will contribute to the main idea unless it is a transition sentence. AND, every paragraph is related to the "central" idea and the topic. :)


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