Lesson plan

How to Find the Main Idea

Get ready to develop important comprehension skills! Students will read different informational passages and learn to identify the main idea. They will then use their knowledge of main ideas to write their own informational passages.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Main Topic pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
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Need extra help for EL students? Try the Main Topic pre-lesson.

Students will identify the main idea in nonfiction texts.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  • Hold up a few nonfiction books. Ask students what the topic of each book is.
  • Explain that books not only have a topic, but the chapters and even paragraphs have topics. Thinking about the main topics of texts helps us understand what the texts are about.
(5 minutes)
  • Read aloud a nonfiction text to the class. After reading each paragraph (or page, depending on the length of the text), think aloud about the main topic of the passage.
  • Write the main topic on a sticky note and attach it to the book.
  • Think aloud questions you have about the text that ask for additional information, such as "What is the reason the author added this picture?" Try to answer the questions aloud as you go and relate your answer to one of the topics in the text.
(10 minutes)
  • After thinking aloud about the main ideas of several paragraphs, ask students to share what they think the main ideas are. Call on students to share their own.
  • Ask students for further explanation and have them point to details in the text to support their ideas.
  • Allow other students to ask a student presenter a question after you have modeled the questions aloud:
    • "Why do you think that is the main topic?"
    • "What details in the text show this is the main topic?"
    • "Can you share more details?"
(20 minutes)
  • Tell students that they are now going to read short paragraphs on their own and decide what the main topics of the paragraphs are.
  • Place the four Finding the Main Idea worksheets at the front of the classroom.
  • Tell students they can start working on any worksheet, but that they should complete all four.


  • Have students write their own nonfiction texts and articulate the main idea of each paragraph.


  • Have students complete 1–2 worksheets with a partner.
(5 minutes)
  • Assess students’ understanding by reviewing their answers to the Finding the Main Idea worksheets.
(5 minutes)
  • Have students share out their answers to Finding the Main Idea worksheets and compare their thoughts about main ideas.

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