Main Idea and Details Activities Your Students Will Love

The main idea and details reading standard is one of my favorite to teach! There are so many great activities you can do to practice main idea and details. Plus, they’re now printable AND digital for distance learning!

Main Topic vs. Main Idea and Details

Depending on your grade level and standards, there is a clear distinction between main topic and main idea. They are very similar and go together, but make sure students know the difference!

main idea and main topic anchor chart posters

Main Topic: This is the subject of the text. It is usually just one or two words.

Main Idea: This is a statement that tells what’s important about the topic.

Main Idea and Details Mystery Activities

One of my favorite introductory activities for main topic OR main idea is mystery bags! Depending on which one you’re teaching, you place four cards into a special bin or paper bag.

Students pull out all four clues and determine the main topic and/or main idea. I always had my 2nd grade students using the cards that include sentences. They had to first find the main topic, birthday party, and then they had to find the main idea, items you need for a birthday party.

Build a Paragraph

Another hands-on activity I like to use with my students is the Build a Paragraph activity. I like to use this in collaborative groups of 2-4 students.

There are 4 sentences mixed up (1 main idea/topic sentence & 3 supporting detail sentences). First, students work together to find the main idea sentence. Then they put the 3 detail sentences in an order they decide makes the most sense (the order of the 3 supporting details may vary).

You can try this build a paragraph activity and more for FREE at the end of this post!

Main Idea and Details Puzzles

I used these main idea puzzles with a small strategy group and they were a huge hit! Because the main ideas are similar, students had to really focus on where supporting details should go!

These puzzles helped us have great conversations about the importance of supporting details. Students had great discussions about why some of the details supported one main idea and not the other.

If you’ve read my post on accountable talk, you know I’m a huge fan of deep text discussions!

Main Idea Printable Activities

While I love hands-on mystery bags, paragraph-building activities, and main idea puzzles, I still find value in printable activities. These are great to use as quick checks for understanding!

As shown below, the Main Idea Scramble activity is perfect to use as a check for understanding right after doing the Build a Paragraph small group activity! Students will do the same thing, only this is a cut & glue so that you have something you can grade!


These are my favorite main idea and details graphic organizers, worksheets, interactive notebook pages, and reading passages!

I also love having graphic organizers and interactive notebook templates to use during my lessons. You can use them with any text, which makes it super easy to differentiate!

These have been SUCH a hit that I’ve created mini-sets for Thanksgiving, Christmas, & Valentine’s Day activities for finding the main idea!

Want to try some main idea activities for FREE? Just leave your details below!

Want to grab ALL of the activities shown in this blog post and more?! Grab them here!

Main Idea Freebies!

Grab 4 build a paragraph main idea activities! We've also included a few freebies to help you teach the difference between main topic and main idea!

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