Main Idea: It's All in the Details

Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.


I have found that our students can't grasp the concept of main idea, no matter what we do with them. We seem to beat it in their heads, but they just don't get it. This year, I am trying something a little different, and the third graders had a blast with it. Nothing fancy, nothing super fun, just mind blowing!

We started with nonfiction because it is more concrete, simpler, so to speak. The kids really get it and see it. I thought about the old textbooks we used, and I actually took a few before they discarded them for this purpose. The textbooks are full of headings, so why not use the headings?! I went to the library and picked out two books about spiders ~ 2 very different books.
Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

As you can see, one book has headers, and the other one does not. This proved to be the making of this lesson.

Use the headings

We started with the book with headers. Using the headers as our guides, I read aloud a couple of sections of the book with them. I modeled the first one, and we worked together on the next one.
Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

Make the headings

The next day, I told them I had gotten a different book, but it had a major problem ~ no headings! They figured out pretty quickly that the book needed headings, we were going to make them. That is when I blew their minds!

 Again, I read a couple of sections aloud to them. In the first one, they told me the details, and I wrote them on the board. Immediately, one of the students said "There's a lot about eggs up there." BAM! That's right! Right away we wrote the main idea and came up with the heading.
Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

I read the next section to them a few times, and they wrote down the details. Once they had details, they came up with a main idea heading.
Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

I think that they got it! At least I like to think that they did. We will continue to practice with nonfiction and move on to fiction next week. Can't wait to see how they do with that!

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Main idea and details can be tricky, but using and creating headings makes it more meaningful for our students.

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