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Main Idea Reading Activity

Students often find it challenging to identify the main idea in a story. The main idea of a story is the main theme, or what the story is about. Main idea statements should be short, simple, and to the point.

If you want to find the main idea, good questions to ask are: what was the authorís central message? What is the main point they wanted to get across to readers?

Early elementary students can begin learning about main idea while listening to stories. A simple technique for teaching main idea is to have students think about five key elements of the main idea while they hold up five fingers.

After reading a story together, students and teacher will hold up one finger as the teacher asks each of these questions:


Did What?



And why?

As each question is asked, students will identify the main character, event or action, time and place, and plot. The answers to the questions can be written in sentence form to express the main idea, such as, Annie and Alex found a lost puppy in the park and took it home. They looked for the owner.

Identifying the main idea, and talking about it as a class, is a powerful way for young students to build comprehension skills. After children have practiced verbalizing the main idea of stories with the whole group, they can try it on their own.

Draw an outline of a hand on a piece of paper. Above each finger, write one of the five questions mentioned above. After reading a story, students will write the answer to each question inside the finger. They can then write a main idea statement on the palm area of the hand outline, or on lines drawn below.

Two games I have used with students to practice identifying the main idea are below.

The Main Idea Jungle Safari game by Edupress Company is a fun board game for 2-4 players. Children need to be readers, and understand the concept of main idea. Click on the game picture below to find out more information at Amazon.com:

10 Reading Comprehension Card Games: Easy-to-Play, Reproducible Card and Board Games That Boost Kidsí Reading Skills Ė and Help Them Succeed on Tests by Scholastic is a reproducible teacher resource book. These games are great for upper elementary students who need to practice identifying the main idea. Click on the picture below to find out more information from Amazon.com:

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