What's the Main Idea in Middle School Literature
By sixth grade, your child should be able to read a short passage, determine main points and key details, and summarize them into a brief paragraph, then use that to construct one or two sentences that convey the main idea – but this doesn't come easily to many middle schoolers.
What You Need to Know
Seeing the big picture can be difficult for budding middle school readers who need to grasp a main idea, but practice makes perfect.
How You Can Help
Help sharpen your child's reading skills:
- Peruse a major newspaper for a feature story with interesting, concrete facts and an inherent thesis. Some safe bets are science stories on outer space expeditions or global warming, along with articles on trends in technology and new media. Entertainment reviews or profiles, however, can be confusing due to the common mix of anecdotes, reportage, and interviews. Search for an article including conflict, cause and effect, a debate, or change, that states something new and urgent for your child to identify.
- Instruct your child to scan the page's photos, captions, bold quotes, maps or charts and use these to speculate what the story might be about before reading the article itself.
- After reading, have your child highlight the “Five Ws:” who, what, when, where, and why – plus how, if any, along with the main details that support these points. If you see yellow streaks across the entire article, then he needs more practice determining what is and is not essential.
- Have your child use his notes to write a short paragraph summarizing the story with a few supporting details.
- Now, have your child have a go at whittling the paragraph down to a one sentence main idea.
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