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Main Idea
Teaching Tips
  1. Look for the:

    1. Subject or Topic of the selection
    2. Theme of the fictional selection
    3. Details used by the author to support the main idea

  2. The main idea is any idea that is particularly important or central in a written work.  It may be stated directly in the passage or it may be implied, which requires students to “read between the lines.”  Questions may be posed to students regarding the SUBJECT of a reading passage or the THEME of a passage.  In determining the main idea, students should be able to list supporting details from the passage.  For example:
    Main Idea

    There’s more to college than taking classes.
    Supporting Details
    • talking to professors
    • socializing with other students
    • experiencing a career through internships
    • living on your own for the first time
    • exposure to new ideas
  3. Help students to find the main idea by:

    1. Modeling the use of 2-column notes (Cornell Notes) to record the main idea and keep track of supporting details. A copy of this strategy is attached and can be copied for student use.
    2. Draw attention to graphs or pictures. These often help to illustrate the most important ideas of a textbook selection.
    3. Examine the student textbook to determine how the information is organized to help students understand the subject of each section.
    4. Ask students: What key words or illustrations are used to support the main idea?  How does the organization of the writing help you understand the main idea or subject?
    Using a chart like the one provided below can help you assess whether or not students really understand the main idea of a passage. 

    Topic/Title of Selection:                                                                   

    Main IdeaDetail Notes

M Carr

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