EL Support Lesson

Main Topic

It's time to dig into some nonfiction books! In this lesson, students will practise identifying the main topic of nonfiction texts. This lesson can be used alone or with the How to Find the Main Idea lesson plan.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theHow to Find the Main IdeaLesson plan.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theHow to Find the Main IdeaLesson plan.

Students will be able to identify the main topic of nonfiction texts.


Students will be able to explain the main topic of a text at a sentence level using sentence frames and partner support.

(5 minutes)
Teach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceVocabulary Cards: Main TopicGlossary: Main Topic
  • Hold up a nonfiction book.
  • Ask the students to look closely at the cover of the book.
  • Have students turn and talk to a partner about what they think the book might be about.
(5 minutes)
  • Hand out the vocabulary cards to students. Have them locate the words you mention as you introduce the vocabulary.
  • Tell students that the main title of a book tells what the book will be about, or the book's Topic.
  • Explain that NonfictionBooks, or books about real life, have main topics.
  • Share that FictionBooks are made-up. They may be about certain people, places, or events, but they don't always have main topics like nonfiction books do.
  • Tell students that we can SortBooks in many ways: by nonfiction and fiction books, picture books and chapter books, books about similar topics, etc. Tell students that sorting books means putting books into groups based on how they are similar, or the same.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that you can learn about the main topic of a book by looking at the cover, the pictures, and reading the text.
  • Go back to the book you presented in the introduction. Write the following sentence frame on the board: "The main topic of this book is ____."
  • Explain the main topic of the book using the sentence frame. Then write the sentence on a sticky note and attach it to the book.
  • Tell students that they will work in partners to determine the main topics in nonfiction books. They can use information from the covers, pictures, and texts when figuring out the main topic.
  • On each book, students should attach a sticky note with the completed sentence frame: "The main topic of this book is ____."
(10 minutes)
  • After figuring out the main topic of several books, have partners join together with another pair. Working as a team, have students figure out a way to sort their books. For example, books about animals and books not about animals.
  • As they think about how to sort, have students use complete sentences to explain what their books are about and how they might be similar/different.


  • Have students work in a teacher-led small group.
  • Have students use their home language to identify the main topic.


  • Have students read the texts when determining main topics.
  • Challenge students to write a paragraph describing how they sorted their books.
(2 minutes)
  • Ask students to answer the following questions using the provided sentence stems:
    • What was one of the main topics of a book you looked at?
      • "The main topic was ____."
    • How did your group sort the books?
      • "We sorted the books by ____."
(3 minutes)
  • Call on pairs to volunteer to share how they sorted their books.

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