Lesson plan

In Search of the Main Idea

Young learners will love finding the main ideas in short informational texts. Featuring a bunch of fun worksheets, this lesson will help students learn about different topics while improving their reading skills.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Main ideas and Details pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
Grade Subject View aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Main ideas and Details pre-lesson.

Students will be able to identify main ideas and supporting details.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that the main idea is the most important or central idea in a paragraph. Just like there is a main street in a town, there is a main idea in a written passage.
  • Show students a box. Place various cooking supplies in the box. Pull out one object from the box at a time. At the end, ask what these items all have in common.
  • Make the connection that the theme of this box is also its main idea.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students that just like the box had a main idea, a paragraph or story also has a main idea.
  • Read the paragraph on the Find the Main Idea: Elephant worksheet. Explain that often the main idea or what the paragraph is mainly about is stated in the first or last sentence. Reread both of these sentences and note their similarities.
  • The main idea is, “Elephants are the largest living land mammals.” Write this in your graphic organizer.
  • Tell students that to find the supporting details, they need need to look for ideas that tell a little more about the main idea. Every detail must match the main idea.
  • Go through and model picking out the supporting details. Write these details in the graphic organizer. Think aloud about how each detail must support the main idea.
(15 minutes)
  • Give students a copy of the Find the Main Idea: The Moon worksheet. Have students draw the same organizer that you used on your chart paper on the back of the worksheet.
  • Have students work in pairs to discuss the main idea and supporting details that support the main idea. Instruct them to put the information into the chart.
(15 minutes)
  • Have students complete the Find the Main Idea: Shark worksheet independently.
  • Enrichment: Have advanced students select a paragraph from a nonfiction classroom reading book. Have the student identify the main idea and supporting details in a separate graphic organizer.
  • Support: Scaffold student learning by providing the main idea in another example. Have the student go through each sentence in the paragraph and answer "yes" or "no" if the sentence is connected to or supports the main idea in some way. Have the student highlight the topic and conclusion sentences to aid in knowing where to look to find the main idea.
(15 minutes)
  • Circulate the room as the students work.
  • Invite the class to participate in a discussion. Ask questions like, "What is the main idea? How did you know?" and "How does this detail support the main idea?"
  • Collect students' worksheets once they're done. Review them later to assess students' understanding.
(5 minutes)
  • Review with students how finding the main idea was similar to naming the theme of the box in the beginning of the lesson.
  • Ask students to share the strategies they used to differentiate a main idea from a supporting detail. Then, have them share how they determine if the supporting detail supports the main idea.

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