Main Idea: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:03 What Is the Main Idea?
  • 0:40 Finding the Main Idea
  • 1:33 Stated and Unstated Main Ideas
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charla Crews

Charla, an educator for over 30 years, has degrees in Early Childhood Education, SPED, and Educational Leadership.

What is the main idea of a passage? How do you identify the main idea? Read this lesson to find the answers to these questions and to discover what a hamburger and a stool have to do with finding the main idea.

What Is the Main Idea?

Sharon listened to her teacher read a book. When her teacher finished, she asked Sharon to tell her the main idea of the story. Sharon didn't have a clue. Do you know what 'main idea' means?

Authors have a message for readers in every passage or story. The main idea is the most important point of the message the author wants to share. Figuring out that main point helps us better understand what we read. The main idea can usually be stated in a few words or a sentence, and the other information in a passage explains the main idea. These are known as details.

Finding the Main Idea

How can you figure out a main idea? While reading, think about what the story or passage is mostly about and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the most important point the author is trying to make?
  2. Do the details support that point?

Here are two fun ways to determine the main idea. First, we'll take a look at the main idea hamburger. Think about a hamburger you make at a cookout. We always start with a bun. Then we add a hamburger and our favorite condiments. We might add lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, onions, or pickles. We all make hamburgers our own way!

What does this have to do with identifying the main idea? The bun is the main idea. Everything else is a detail.

Another way to think about the main idea is to picture a stool. The seat is the main idea since it is the largest part of the stool and each of the legs is a detail.

Stated and Unstated Main Ideas

Sometimes the author tells the reader the main idea. Often it's expressed in the first sentence, but it can be anywhere in a passage. When a main idea is written, it's known as a stated main idea. Other times we have to figure out the main idea from clues the author gives us. This is known as an unstated main idea, or implied main idea.

Let's look at two examples. Here's the first:

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