Main Idea Lesson Plan for 4th-6th Grades

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Amp up your instruction on main idea with an informative text lesson and multi-step in class activity that shapes student understanding. Students will also get the chance to demonstrate their learning with a pen, pair and share project. Additional resources and suggestions for related activities are included to further instruction.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define main idea
  • identify the main ideas of several short stories


1 to 1.5 hours


  • Assorted photocopies of very short stories

Curriculum Standards


Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.


Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.


  • Begin by asking students to define 'main idea.' Write their definitions on the board.
  • Now watch the Introduction and The Main Idea of a Story sections of the video lesson What is the Main Idea of a Story?. These will provide a clear definition of main idea for the students.
  • Next, review the definitions written on the board in light of the information provided in the text lesson. Were the students on target with their definitions of main idea? If not, what was missing. Discuss as a class.
  • Now pass out the short stories to the students, one per student.
  • Have each student read their short story and write the main idea of the story in a sentence or two on a separate sheet of paper.
  • Now ask students to swap their stories with a classmate, holding on to their sheets with the story's main idea.
  • The students should now read the story that their classmate gave them.
  • Once again, ask students to write down the main idea of the second short story in a sentence or two.
  • Now watch the Knowing If It's the Main Idea and Looking for the Main Idea sections of the text lesson. These sections will help students identify main ideas in their reading.
  • Have the students who swapped papers pair up to review their interpretations of the main idea. Did they get similar answers? If not, have them review the short stories together using the guidelines provided in the text lesson to see why their answers were different and correct any mistakes.
  • Now have students watch the rest of the lesson.
  • Ask students to compose short stories of their own. As soon as they have written their short story, they should write down the main idea of their story on the back of the story.
  • When all students have written their short stories, have them swap papers with a classmate and read his/her short story.
  • Next, ask them to write the main idea on the front of their classmate's paper. Now have them flip it over to see if the main idea they wrote matched that of the author. If the two main ideas do not match, students should analyze the discrepancies using the guidelines presented in the text lesson.
  • When the pairs are complete, discuss this project as a class.

Discussion Questions

  • What kinds of things distract from the main idea in a story?
  • Is it possible to have a story with several main ideas?


  • Have students analyze the main ideas of well known poems, speeches, and song lyrics.
  • Asks students to read fiction and non-fiction pieces to identify the main idea(s). Is it harder to determine main idea in one or the other? Why?

Related Lessons

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