Lesson plan

What’s the (Main) Topic?

Teach your students how to identify the main topic using story cards and an interactive read aloud in this engaging lesson.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

No standards associated with this content.

Which set of standards are you looking for?

Students will be able to identify the main topic and key details of a nonfiction text.

(10 minutes)
  • Gather students on the rug for the start of the lesson.
  • Show students a series of images (you can use the image cards attached to this lesson plan or images of your choosing about a nonfiction topic).
  • Ask your students to look at each image closely and think about how the pictures work together.
  • Then, ask your students to share what they think the pictures are about and why. For example, “I think the pictures are all about pets because I see pictures of different animals that are all pets.”
  • Ask your students to think about details in the pictures that support their ideas. Have them turn and talk with a partner.
  • Have students share out with the class. Record student ideas on a whiteboard or chart paper.
  • Summarize student thinking into a cohesive statement, such as, “Different kinds of animals can be pets.”
  • Explain that we have a special name we use when we talk about what a nonfiction book is about. We call this the main topic. The main topic helps the reader understand what the book is about. One way to look for the main topic is to listen for words that we hear more than once. Clues can also be found in the pictures of the book.
  • Say, “Today we will practise finding the main topic in our books and listening for clues or details to help us learn more about that topic."
(10 minutes)
  • Remind your students to think about the text features in a nonfiction text. Show examples of text features such as labels, diagrams, glossary, pictures, etc.
  • Ask students how they might use text features to learn about the main topic in a book.
  • Refer back to the set of pictures you showed the class and ask your students to think about the most important parts of the pictures. Ask for a student to share the “most important parts” in as few words as possible. Say, “make it short and simple.”
  • As your students share out, write the phrases you hear on the board such as: "Animals are pets," "You take care of your pet," "Different kinds of animals can be pets," etc.
  • Tell students that they have just identified the key details in the book. Key details tell us more about the main topic.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the Main Topic worksheet on the board and use the information students share in the following sections to fill in the worksheet.
  • Read aloud SharksBy Anne Schreiber (or a similar nonfiction text).
  • As you read, pause to think aloud. You can say something like, “It seems like this book is about sharks, all different types of sharks. Or maybe it is about fish? Hmm. This sounds like it might be the main idea, or what the book is about.”
  • Continue to read, pausing to notice important words, facts, and text features.
  • Ask your students to think about what the book was about. Invite students to share their ideas.
  • Summarize student thinking into a cohesive statement, such as, “The book is about sharks. Sharks are a special type of fish who live in the ocean.”
  • Write this down under the "Main Topic" section of the worksheet.
  • Ask students to think about what key details they heard in the story that supports (or tells us more) about the main topic. Have them turn and talk to a partner.
  • Have students share out their thinking with the class. Record three key details under the “Details” section of the worksheet. Ex. "Sharks are fish, they have cartilage instead of bones, sharks have been here before dinosaurs."
  • Listen to a few ideas from the students and explain that in the “illustration” section of the worksheet they are able to draw or write other important details they would like to show someone about the book.
(20 minutes)
  • Read aloud National Geographic Readers: PlanetsBy Elizabeth Carney or similar grade appropriate nonfiction text.
  • When finished reading, refer back to the main topic worksheet that you filled out in the previous section and explain that now you will pass out a worksheet to each student and they will complete it independently for the book you just read.
  • Circulate around the room and support students as needed.


  • Gather a small group of students to work with the teacher or teachers aide to complete the worksheet as a group.
  • For students who need writing and/or reading help, provide them with sticky notes with key words written on them. You may also choose to write down student thoughts as they dictate them to you.
  • For students unable to write on their own, they can fill out each section of the worksheet using pictures.


  • For advanced students, after completing the Main Topic worksheet, provide advanced students with additional time to read nonfiction texts and complete a second worksheet independently.
(5 minutes)

Collect the Main Topic worksheets and assess whether students were able to correctly identify the main topic and key details from the book.

(5 minutes)
  • After the independent work time has concluded, ask students to return to the rug and place their finished worksheets in front of them. Ask for a few volunteers to share out parts of their worksheet with the class (for example, asking for a student to share one of their three details, their main topic, etc...). Note what students did well. Highlight each part of the worksheet as students share to review with the whole class.*
  • Discuss student questions as needed. Close by saying, “When we can identify the main topic and details that support it, we are better able to remember what we read and share that information with others.”

Add to collection

Create new collection

Create new collection

New Collection