Main Idea can be difficult to teach, especially in the upper elementary grades where the texts are more complex. It isn’t always easy to ascertain what the author is mainly trying to tell the audience. Now, as teachers, we may see the main idea as obvious, but to a child it’s not that simple.
Here are some tips to help you teach main idea and key details.
1. Start by identifying the topic (what is the passage about). This way students will not use this for the main idea, which is what many tend to do. For example, the topic may be extreme weather and the main idea is, extreme weather is destructive to life and property. Starting with the topic allows students to focus on what the author wants them to know about the topic. This should avoid students simply naming the topic as the actual main idea.
2. Be sure students understand the vocabulary you will be using. The topic is what the passage is about. The main idea is what the author wants you to know about the topic. The key details are examples that support the main idea.
3. Key details are ideas that support the main idea. In other words, key ideas prove that the main idea is the central thought of the author. If students can’t find key details, maybe the main idea is not correct. Sticking with the example from above, if extreme weather is destructive to life and property, then the key details would provide proof of this destruction. Proof is also referred to as text evidence, examples, reasons, or details.
4. Once the topic, main idea, and key details have been identified, have students use the topic, main idea, and key details to form a summary. Put all three categories in paragraph form, and this is the summary of the passage.
How do you do this?
5. You can start with a graphic organizer, then write out the topic, main idea, key details in sentence form. Finally, put all sentences together to form your summary.
I hope you picked up a tip or two for teaching main idea and key details.
Below, you can find resources to help with this process. THANK YOU for reading to the end!