Main Idea & Details Games & Activities

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Students need to be able to extract the main idea and supporting details from a text. These classroom games and activities will help them learn how to do that.

Main Ideas & Details Games and Activities

Nonfiction articles and publications often have some fundamental similarities in structure. A paragraph will often begin by introducing a particular topic, presenting its so-called main idea. It will then continue to justify that idea with a series of supporting details like explanations, facts, and statistics. Students need to be able to identify the main idea in a piece, and then list the supporting details that back up that idea. To help them practice this process, we can use fun games and activities like the ones outlined in this lesson.

Main Idea Pictures

When young students are first introduced to main ideas and supporting details, it can be helpful to start with something easier before delving into dense articles and texts. We can give them this opportunity by having them work in groups to analyze main idea pictures. These are images that tell a story.

For example, you could give students a picture showing a person walking away from a mostly empty desk, looking sad, carrying a box full of stuff. The main idea might be that the person has been fired, and the supporting details include the empty desk, the box full of stuff, and his facial expression. You could even weave in hints as to why he was fired, and various other clues. By analyzing pictures like this, students can understand what main ideas and supporting details are in a fun and engaging way.

Main Idea & Details Posters

Another approach is to have each group of students work on extracting the main idea and supporting details from a different article. Those groups can analyze an article, and then summarize the answers in the form of a small poster. Students can find different ways of presenting the main ideas and supporting details. For example, the could create hierarchy charts, with the supporting details hanging off the main idea. Or, they could do it as some kind of pie chart, weighing the importance of the various details. It's up to students how they present the posters, but they should be encouraged to be creative and find clever and unique ways to present the information.

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