How do you teach the main idea and supporting details in a memorable and fun way? With hands-on activities, of course!
The Importance of the Main Idea and Supporting Details
Finding and sorting the main idea from the supporting details is a key component of reading comprehension.
Understanding the main idea and supporting details is also the nuts and bolts of paragraph writing.
With these activities, students will learn how to identify the main idea and supporting details.
They will also practice inferring the main idea from a set of details and extrapolating supporting details to fit a main idea.
And, yes, it will be fun!
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Activities for Identifying Main Idea and Supporting Details
Activities require that students engage and participate in the learning process.
When you couple hearing and seeing with doing, your lessons will stick.
These activities practice the skill of identifying the main idea and supporting details; this skill is key in reading comprehension.
Write the main idea sentence on a card. Then, make additional cards with supporting details that fit the main idea.
Can the student arrange the cards so the main idea is first?
You can play variations of this game that increase its complexity. You can add an additional main idea and supporting details.
Then, the student must sort both paragraphs.
Another variation is to add supporting details that don’t fit at all. Say you are assembling a paragraph on a panda bear’s appearance.
Add a sentence about tacos and another about race cars.
Story Sum Up
Whenever you read aloud to students, try this post-reading activity.
Ask them for the main idea of the story or book.
You can tell them that sometimes the main idea is given away by the title!
For instance, in the book Bedtime for Francis, the main idea is that Francis does not want to go to bed.
A book entitled Volcanoes likely has the main idea that volcanoes are interesting.
Once you identify the main idea, ask students to recall supporting details.
Stories follow a pattern that you can map out.
- Who are the characters? What are they like?
- What is the setting?
- What is the problem?
- How do the characters resolve the problem?
You can have students draw or write the answers on a story map.
A story map has a designated place to put the answers to these questions. It can be simple or artful.
You could also give them more generic prompts like:
- What happened at the beginning of the story?
- What happened in the middle of the story?
- What happened at the end?
Main Idea Sculpture
This is a clever activity that is similar to the story sum-up.
Ask the students to shape some clay or playdough into an item that has to do with the main idea of the story.
In Bedtime for Francis, this might be Francis, a bed, or her exasperated parents.
In the book about volcanoes, it would likely be a volcano!
Activities for Generating Main Idea and Supporting Details
These activities practice generating and organizing the main idea and supporting details.
This skill is needed in paragraph writing.
A graphic organizer is a chart the student can fill in to organize his ideas for writing.
Use this printable to organize the main idea and supporting details into the components of a hamburger.
Instead of reading a text, examine a picture or short comic.
Then ask the students to identify the main idea and supporting details of the scene or story.
Find or write some very short news articles. The funnier, the better!
Read the article and then ask each of the students to come up with a headline.
You can mention that the best headlines hint at or state the main idea.
Here is an example:
Students were shocked to find their main dish bubbling over their lunch trays Monday.
Students who chose Sloppy Joes as their entree experienced the meat mixture fizzing and spreading all over their trays.
“I thought my lunch was alive!” one student reported.
It turns out that a box of baking soda accidentally fell into the Sloppy Jow mixture, causing a chemical reaction that made the meat mixture bubble, fizz, and ooze.
Students could generate headlines like “Sloppy Joe Surprise,” “Volcano Sloppy Joe,” or “Oozing Lunch Disaster.”
This group activity begins with you providing a main idea.
Then the students take turns coming up with sentences that give supporting details.
Pick topics that the students are familiar with so no research is needed.
For example, a main idea could be “You can find the colors of the rainbow in nature.”
Supporting sentences could be as simple as “Grass is green.”
Main Idea and Supporting Details Activities
These simple and fun main idea and supporting detail activities will give your students much-needed skills for reading comprehension and writing organization.
Some of the activities, like the Story Sum Up and Collaborative Writing, take almost no effort to plan and execute.
What’s the main idea of this article?
You should try some main idea and supporting details activities in your classroom!