If your students are still struggling to identify main ideas in informational sources, do they need clarity on what exactly “identify a main idea” means? The chart below has language I use to explain the what, why, and how of identifying main ideas.
If you feel like you’ve done this over and over again or just need some new ideas, here are some other suggestions. (The hyperlinks are to previous blog entries that I’ve recently revisited and revised!)
- Introduce the framed photograph analogy as a way to demonstrate the process of identify a main idea.
- Give students the main idea up front and then let them grapple with identifying and explaining key details. Lots of experiences with already identified main ideas can help them begin to notice main ideas on their own.
- Unpack a main idea statement to help students explain a main idea better. Write the statement on piece of chart paper, discuss what the different words or phrases in that main idea mean and annotate. Step back and summarize what the main idea means using the annotations as support.
- Discuss the main ideas in a photograph. This eases the cognitive load for students.
- Identify the character traits of historical figures. This is a super easy way to help students think about main ideas in sources on history.
Hope this helps.