Main Idea Lesson Plan

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Use this lesson plan to help you teach your students about the main idea of a text. In it, you will find a text lesson that outlines the concepts before working through an example as a class. Then, challenge students to work together to find a couple stories' main ideas.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define the term 'main idea' as it relates to literature
  • determine the main idea of a variety of writing samples


  • 30-45 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.


Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.



  • To introduce the lesson, begin by having a whole-class discussion about the term 'main idea.' Write 'main idea' on the board and ask students to suggest what it might mean. Write pertinent definitions on the board.
  • Next, ask students to listen to you read a short story or newspaper article to the class.
  • Immediately following the short story or article, have students read the lesson Finding & Interpreting the Main Idea in Literature. Have them read the first three sections, stopping just before the section called 'Interpreting the Main Idea.'
  • Refer back to the story or newspaper article you read before students started with the lesson. Ask students to discuss in pairs (or groups) what the main idea might be.
  • Ask for groups to volunteer what they came up with. Write their suggestions for the piece's main idea on the board. Together, determine which idea is most likely the main idea.
  • Ask students to finish reading the lesson.
  • Distribute newspapers or short-story books to pairs or groups of students at random.
  • Students will now read the piece and work together to determine its main idea. They may choose to write several options and determine which is most likely the main idea.
  • When they have found their story's main idea, have groups exchange stories with another group. Have them find the main idea of their new story in the same way.
  • When all groups are satisfied they know their story's main idea, have two groups/pairs stand at the same time and tell the class what they believe is the main idea of the story.
    • Are both same-story groups in agreement about what the piece's main idea is?
  • For those that are not, have them summarize the story to the class and have the whole class vote in on which idea is most likely the main idea.
  • Have students complete the associated quiz as an exit slip.

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