Main Idea Teaching Hack

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As state testing nears, I’ve been tutoring a small group of Third Graders.  We’ve been working really hard on our reading skills.  Recently, one of our objectives was CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.2 – Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

I’ve found main idea to be tricky skill to teach.  At first glimpse, it seems like an easy task, but students often focus on key details, and sometimes they focus on details that are not even relevant.  After much pondering, I FINALLY came up with a simple trick to get students to zoom in on those important words related to Main Idea.

To teach students how to do this, I wrote short passages on chart paper.  (The ones I used came from Erica Trobridge from One Lucky Teacher.  Her Determining the Main Idea, Task Cards and Assessment Option set is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.)  In a whole group setting, students took turns reading aloud the short passages.  Next, I had students come up to the anchor one at a time to circle a key word, a word they would use when telling someone about the passage.  After all of the key words had been circled, we used them to create a one sentence summary of the passage.  That one sentence summary is always point-on with the main idea of the passage.  Finally, we read the questions (what is the main idea?) and the answer choices and decide upon the correct answers. 

Going through this process has made a tremendous difference with my kiddos!  It definitely takes quite a bit of practice and guidance at first, but this technique helps them hone in on what is truly important in their reading.  After several practices, I began to hear many of my kiddos using the term “key details” frequently!   

A super simple lesson that works!