Nailing Down Main Ideas

Reading has always been a favorite of mine to teach. I adore working on decoding with students but my passion lies in helping them detect the meaning in the words on the page and grow in their comprehension skills. After all, isn't that what reading is all about? Detecting the meaning behind the words?

In a previous blog post I wrote about some simple ideas to increase understanding of what the main idea is. Here is a blurb from that post.

MAIN IDEA is finding the information that tells what the entire text or picture is about. It is the message or the point the author of the materials wants to convey.
When teaching main idea I use key words such as WHO and WHAT. Another idea to use is what is the BIG IDEA of this story or what you are trying to teach is how to pinpoint what the author is targeting.

Picture Main Idea
Start at the picture level. Use an easy to understand pictures from magazines, photos, picture books or comic book.  These can be  extremely useful for main idea. When working with materials at the picture stage, be sure and include the use of key phrases to prompt the correct answer such as What is happening in this picture?  What is the boy/girl doing? Pictures depicting things familiar to the student are particularly  helpful at this stage such as the one below.

 Here are a couple of examples of picture stage.

Here are a few types of questions  you can ask about pictures when working on main idea.
1. What is happening in this picture?
2. What do you see in the picture?
3. What are they doing?

Main Idea
Here are some ideas for working on comprehension skill of main idea in your classroom.
Sometimes real pictures are better than words. Use a real object such as target with a bull eye on it.

One that works really well is a velco target.
This is a great way of emphasizing with students, how we need to get to the most important piece of information in text. We always need to drill down to the the bulls eye to understand what is being said.  I like to modify the  target with details of a well know story, such as a fairy tale or such.
I fasten story details in several of the places on the bull eye and the main idea in the center. The kids LOVE throwing the balls to try and get to the center of the target. This becomes a great learning "hook" on which to refer back to during main idea instruction to help them understand what we are looking for in a main idea.

Another idea for working with main idea is to use headlines from newspapers or magazines. I find kids newspapers and magazines the best to use for this. Headlines are great for finding what the main topic is.
I like to laminate them so the kids can use wipe-off markers or crayons on them and circle the word(s) that are the main topic of that sentence.
Following the activity, they are easy to wipe off and use again.

You have any ideas for teaching main idea to those kids that really struggle with this skill?
I'd love to hear about them.

No comments