Main idea activities and resources

Activities and Resources for Teaching Main Idea

Looking for main idea activities and resources?!

Teaching the main idea can be a very tricky concept to get students to understand!

It’s not about everything you learn while reading the paragraph, or the overall theme.

It’s about teaching students to find key sentences, and using text features to tell them exactly what they will be reading about!

I think before teaching any new skill, it’s really important to convey to students why it’s important that we work on the skills that we do.

You could present them with an example such as, if someone asks you what your favorite movie is, and why it’s your favorite, they’re probably expecting to get a general idea from you as to what the movie is about, without them having to watch the entire movie!

The same concept applies to the main idea.

By learning how to find the main idea, we can quickly recap what our reading is about, just like our favorite movie!

And although teaching the main idea can be tricky, it’s one of the most important areas for improving students’ overall reading comprehension.

There are multiple factors that play a part in developing comprehension, but today I’m going to share with you a few activities and resources for specifically teaching the main idea!

But if you haven’t already, check out my post, 4 Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension here!

Let me show you 🙂

Google Classroom Main Idea Activities and Organizers

Most of the time students get really caught up in the supporting details of a paragraph, especially a nonfiction text!

They’re all about the facts and learning new things about a topic.

The key is to use those fascinating supporting details they read to find the main idea. 

This Google Classroom resource helps immensely with doing just that!

The drag-and-drop activities give students multiple key details to categorize.

Once the details have been sorted, students will determine what the main idea is. For example, if you’re given a list of words such as pear, plum, cherry, pineapple, etc., you’re going to establish that the main idea of that list is a fruit!

Your students will begin understanding the difference between key details and the main idea with those activities, and then you will be able to move on to the passages.

Your students will be given a short passage to read, and then from there will be asked to identify the main idea and supporting details.

This resource also comes with 5 different graphic organizers you can use with your own text during a lesson, including areas to list both main idea and key details.

When you’re teaching a specific reading skill such as the main idea, especially in the beginning, I always recommend having students choose their own text to boost their interest in what they’re learning!

You can check out this Google Classroom Main Idea resource here. 🙂


Main Idea Digital Pixel

Main idea activities resources

You know me, I LOVE a good mystery digital pixel! 🙂

This resource comes with 5 different mystery pixels that focus on the main idea.

If you haven’t ever tried these before, you and your students will have so much fun with them! I also have a blog post that goes into depth about mystery pixels.

Your students will first read a passage and then answer questions regarding key details and the main idea of the passage.

For every correct answer, a mystery picture will appear! Every pixel comes with an answer key.

They’re a super fun way for you to gauge your students’ understanding, without having to give them a paper and pencil while you’re teaching the main idea.

Learn more about this specific Main Idea Digital Pixel here.

Not sure if a digital mystery pixel is for you?

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Main Idea and Supporting Details Interactive Notebook

Main idea activities resources

You know I also love interactive notebooks. 🙂

This main idea interactive notebook will help your students understand how to find the main idea, match definitions and vocabulary words, and answer questions about the main idea and key details after reading a passage.

The interactive notebook also comes with 3 different graphic organizers to supplement whatever text you’re using to work on the main idea!

I love using graphic organizers to portray an idea.

For example, kids love pizza, am I right? You can introduce this graphic organizer with the idea that pizza as a whole is the main idea, while each topping is a supporting detail. Even though we love pizza as a whole, it’s really the key details that make it what it is – delicious! 🙂

The entire notebook is differentiated and comes with 3 different options for you to choose the level of ability you want your students to complete it at while you’re teaching the main idea. It comes with all answer keys, as well, so consider your prep… done!

Check out the Main Idea Interactive Notebook here!

Main idea activities resources

Guessing Games

While all of these resources are wonderful ways to supplement your main idea and provide instruction at every phase, one of my favorite ways to introduce the skill is just with simple “guessing games.”

These games focus on key details and students coming up with the main idea – similar to the beginning activities in the Google Classroom Resource. 🙂 

Your guessing game can involve literally any topic! Sports, food, movies/tv shows, books, etc.

For example, if you’re using sports as your main idea, you can get a little more specific and use basketball. Come up with characteristics of the game – How many points you earn each time you score, how many players are on a team, and any of the rules.

Your students will then need to guess what sport you’re describing, or essentially identifying the main idea of the details!

Once your kids have the hang of it, have them create their own. 🙂


Create Your Own Title

Another activity I’ve had success with while teaching the main idea is having students create their own titles of articles by using cut-up educational magazines or recycled newspapers (kids love newspapers! I’ve never really understood why! LOL).

Even recipes work great for this (and are especially fun, who doesn’t love naming yummy food?!)

All you have to do is cut out any article you want them to read, but leave the title. You can have this be an individual activity, and give each student their own article, or you can place students into small groups.

You’ll have them read the article together and then brainstorm what they believe the title should be!

You’re going to want to take note of what the actual title really is.

That way you can show students how their title for the same article differed or was similar!

My students always used to take this so seriously and really try to come up with titles that were newspaper-worthy – short, yet bold!


The main idea is such a fun skill to work on and once you have their attention, they’ll be hooked!

I hope these main idea activities and resources are helpful to you and make teaching the main idea a super fun experience for your classroom!

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