Lesson plan

What’s This All About? Unpacking the Main Idea!

Guide students through the challenging task of unpacking the main idea of a text.
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  • With guidance, students will be able to use the details of a text to describe its main idea.
  • Independently, students will sort the details from the main idea of a paragraph.
(2 minutes)
  • Gather the students in your meeting area and tell them that today they will be working on figuring out the main idea. The main idea is the most important idea.
  • First, they will work as a group to figure out the answer to the question: What are all the things in this box about? What do they tell a story about?
(15 minutes)
  • Take out the objects one by one, taking a few minutes to discuss the purpose of each one. For each object, write a short sentence inside the picture of the box (e.g. People use leashes to walk their dogs. Dogs eat and drink from a dog bowl. Dogs love to play with squeaky toys. Giving a dog a bath keeps it clean and healthy.).
  • Have students discuss with a partner what these sentences have in common and come up with one sentence that they both agree on.
  • Have students share out ideas and think aloud/model for students, rereading all the sentences and asking yourself: What are all of these sentences about? (e.g. "These objects all have to do with taking care of a dog. How can I write that as the first sentence of a story? Maybe I can say, 'Owners need to do many things to take care of a dog.'")
  • Write out the main idea sentence at the top of the box. Read out the entire paragraph with the class. Review the fact that the first sentence is the main idea and the following four sentences are the details.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that now you have a new group of ideas for them to work with, but this time their job is a little different. This time you are going to read four sentences and they have to figure which is the main idea and which are the details. Reveal the sentence strips one by one, read them together, and tape them to the board.

Sometimes, I lay down and make a snow angel. There are many fun things to do when it snows. My brother and I love to get into snowball fights! Sledding downhill can be so exciting!

  • Have students partner up and discuss which is the main idea. Facilitate a class discussion where students reach agreement on which sentence is the main idea and why.
  • Read the new paragraph altogether.
(15 minutes)

*Okay, now it’s their turn! Hand out the find the main idea worksheet. Their job is to read the four sentences, cut them out, figure out which is the main idea, and arrange them in a way that sounds best, with the main idea at the top.

Enrichment: For students ready for more, give them an interesting main idea and have them write out their own story with the main idea and details.

Support: Modify the text for students who need more reading support.

(15 minutes)
  • Circulate, ask questions, and take notes as the students work to measure their understanding.
(8 minutes)
  • Gather all students at the meeting area to see if they all agreed on the main idea. Have students share their ideas.

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