Main Idea In A Paragraph: How to Win Big

Finding the main idea in a paragraph can be so hard for students to understand and find. Sharing with you today are some tips and realizations I’ve learned after teaching for many years, about how to best start main idea instruction! Learn some tips and suggestions here to help you teach the main idea!

Image reads "Win Big at teaching Main Idea: Here's How You Can Do It!"

Start with Main Topic, not Main Idea in a Paragraph

First, we need to teach our students to identify the main topic of a text. Think about it as a flow chart, and the main topic is at the very top.

We talk about how the topic is ONE word (maybe two) to describe what the text is about. I like to give an example with a paragraph about pizza. We talk about how if we only get one or two words to describe this paragraph, the topic is pizza.

Image shows a worksheet about the main idea in a paragraph about pizza toppings.

Transition to Main Idea in a Paragraph

Once we’ve got the topic, now we move onto the main idea. The main idea is what a text is mostly about. If we go back to the pizza paragraph, we discuss how the entire paragraph is talking about favorite pizza toppings. 

Main idea is more detailed and gives us just a little bit more of the overarching theme of the text. This is when I like to introduce more paragraphs, but I still keep them all about pizza! One paragraph is about the new pizza place in town, and another paragraph is about how a class is trying to earn a pizza party.

These paragraphs really help students distinguish between how the main topic is just one or two words, and how the main idea gives us more information.

Main Idea Resources

My goal is always to make learning main idea as engaging as possible. You probably do too! That’s why one of my favorite main idea activities are these fun mysteries! You can find these mysteries and more main idea activities here!

Image shows main idea mystery activities to use in the classroom.

Free Main Idea Resources

If you’d like your own copy of the pizza paragraphs and other main idea goodies, you can leave your email and download them right here!

Image links to free main idea in a paragraph activities to download.

You can read about more of my main idea in a paragraph activity here!

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