Main Idea Lesson Plan for 1st-3rd Grades

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Use this lesson plan to teach students what is meant by the term 'main idea' and give them strategies for identifying a main idea in text. Then, use familiar stories to practice finding main idea and play a game to reinforce concepts.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define 'main idea'
  • identify the main idea of a text with assistance
  • use strategies to practice finding a main idea independently


  • 45 minutes to 1 hour


  • Chart paper
  • A few familiar texts, such as picture books you've recently read
  • Short stories task cards, one for each student, group, or pairing (numbered)
  • Scoot recording sheet or paper numbered for each task card

Key Vocabulary

  • Main idea
  • Supporting details
  • Strategy
  • Topic

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.2

Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.2

Identify the main topic of a multi-paragraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.


  • Gather students on the carpet and tell them a short story about something that happened to you recently, such as 'I was doing laundry yesterday and…' Make sure your story has a clear main idea.
  • Ask students if they can identify what your story was mainly about. For example, you may have accidentally mixed colors in your laundry and ruined a favorite shirt. Steer students towards understanding that although you talked about other details, your story had a main idea.
  • Write the words 'Main Idea' on top of the chart paper. Tell students you will be creating a definition for the term and practicing finding the main idea in text.
  • With your students, watch our lesson What is The Main Idea in a Story?.
  • After each section, pause and connect to your story. Ask:
    • How did we know the main idea of my story?
    • What was the topic of my story?
    • What were some supporting details of my story?
  • Before beginning the 'Looking for the Main Idea' section, pause and create a definition for main idea with your students. Record on the chart paper.
  • Review the definition of 'strategies' with your students. Under the definition of main idea, write 'Strategies for Finding a Main Idea'.
  • Record the three strategies as you read with students. Add graphics to help with visual memory, like eyes for 'looking for repetition' and a hammer and ice chunks for 'breaking story into smaller chunks.'
  • After finishing the video, have students turn and talk to share central ideas, like the definition of main idea and a strategy they can use to find one. Listen in to conversations to clarify understanding.

Guided Practice

  • Partner, group, or allow students to work individually according to the needs of your students.
  • Choose a book from your familiar text pile. With students, briefly retell the story.
  • Have students/groups determine the main idea. Give choices if necessary to scaffold.
  • Ask students to share which strategy they used to find the main idea.
  • Repeat the activity until students gain confidence.


  • Tell students they will practice finding the main idea in stories by playing a game called 'Scoot.'
  • Set up the main idea task cards around the room. Give each student/grouping a recording sheet.
  • Differentiate as necessary for your students' reading levels, or used mixed ability grouping to ensure all students find success.
  • Explain that students will work on reading the task card, finding the main idea, and writing it down on the same line number as the task card. Do one rotation slowly to ensure understanding.
  • Determine an amount of time students will be able to complete the task, such as 3 minutes. When the time is up, say 'Scoot!,' letting students know it is time to scoot to another task card and repeat the task.
  • Allow students to rotate to each task card. Circulate the room to check on student progress and help if necessary.
  • Share answers and discuss strategies used.


  • Add a column for 'Strategy Used' to the Scoot recording sheet. Students write the main idea and the strategy they used to find it.
  • After teaching about supporting details, give one task card to each student. Have them highlight the main idea in yellow and supporting details in pink.
  • Introduce the flower graphic organizer for main idea and supporting details. The main idea goes in the center and supporting details are petals for the flower.

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