Teacher Tips for Teaching Main Idea in Lower Elementary

Are you ready to take your reading lessons to the next level? Imagine making every story a treasure hunt where your students are finding deeper meaning. In this article, we’ll be diving into the world of main ideas and supporting details. Not sure what this looks like  in your classroom? Keep reading to learn tips for teaching the main idea in lower elementary, and creating students who are comprehension champions! 

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Tips for Teaching Main Idea for Lower Elementary: Define Main Idea 

To start, you want to make sure you define main idea. I like to tell my students it’s the central point or the most important message of a text. For example, in a story about a day at the beach, the main idea might be “a family’s fun day at the beach.” Then, you should talk about supporting details. Supporting details are the facts or examples that give more information about the main idea, like descriptions of building sandcastles, swimming in the ocean, and having a picnic. 

Use A Relatable Classroom Scenario

Tips for teaching main idea for lower elementary can sometimes be as simple as making a connection. Sometimes making connections is the easiest way to get lightbulbs to go on. You can create a scenario where you read a simple story to the class and then ask questions like, “What was the story mainly about?” and “What happened in the story that tells you that?” This teacher lead discussion helps students uncover the main idea and its supporting details. 


Use Visual Aids to Increase Comprehension 

When you use visual aids, like a tree diagram where the main idea is the trunk and the branches are the supporting details, you are giving students an opportunity to see the concept in a new way. This tip for teaching main idea in lower elementary is perfect for your visual learners. It helps students see how details are connected to the main idea. 

The Importance of Teaching Main Idea in Lower Elementary 

When you are teaching this skill, it’s important to emphasize the importance of teaching these early and often. It’s not just about reading comprehension. It’s also about critical thinking and summarizing information. Both of these skills are important to help students grow in their learning. 

Tips for Teaching Main Idea in Lower Elementary 

When you are wanting to get students to be more independent in their quest to find the main idea, you want to use a variety of strategies. The following tips for teaching main idea in lower elementary are great to use in a variety of ways in your classroom. 

Start with Simple Texts

When you are starting to teach students main idea, start with texts that are straightforward and familiar to students. Starting with a story about a visit to the zoo, camping, or spending a day at school can help students find the main idea bit simpler. If you read a book about the zoo, you could ask students, “What was the most important thing about this story?” This encourages students to think about the overarching theme or message. 

Use Visual Aids 

As you know, there are so many different types of learners in your classroom. Using visuals like graphic organizers like a “Main Idea and Details” chart can be a great way to separate ideas. For example, after reading a story about gardening, the main idea in the center could be “Growing Plants,” with supporting details like planting seeds, watering plans, and sunlight and branching out. Feel free to add pictures to this like a tree trunk with branches or just use a simple circle with lines coming off it. 

Get Interactive 

Tips for teaching main idea to lower elementary have to be engaging and what’s more engaging than getting interactive with learning? You can have students work in groups where they practice finding the main idea and details. For example, if you were to give students a series of pictures about a day at the beach, you can ask groups to create a story with a clear main idea. They should add use the pictures to add supportive details. You can have students act out their stories for their class to make it even more interactive. 

All of these tips for teaching main idea in lower elementary are created to help make the concept of main idea and supporting details engaging and hands-on. By using them, you are laying a strong foundation for their reading comprehension skills. 

Incorporate Close Readings for Lower Elementary Students

“Close Readings for All ‘‘ is a great resource that is a game changer in teaching main idea  supporting details in lower elementary. The following tips for teaching main idea in lower elementary will give you all the information you need to pick the perfect reading passages for close readings. 


Differentiate Reading Passages 

When it comes to reading and finding the main idea with supporting details, you have to make sure you are choosing passages that are appropriate for each student. You can do this by differentiated instruction. In the Close Reading for All package, there are 100 non-fiction reading passages that are all differentiated into three levels. This allows you to easily give students what they need to succeed in your classroom. For example, a passage about butterflies can be presented in simpler terms for beginners and in more advanced language for advanced readers. 

Use Graphic Organizers 

With the Close Reading for All package, you get EIGHT different graphic organizers your students can choose from. These tools can be great for mapping out the main idea and details for each passage. For example, one of the graphic organizers isa  venn diagram. This can be used to compare and contrast details from a book that talks about two different types of animals or atmospheres. Using graphic organizers and other visuals helps students see their learning in a new way which can increase understanding. 

Annotation Key and Text Evidence 

If you thought the Close Reading for All package couldn’t get any better, then you would be wrong! This resource comes with an annotation key and color-coded text evidence questions. This will help students learn how to identify key information in a text. With this resources, students might underline the main idea in one color and the supporting details in another which helps with visual comprehension. 

Take Advantage of the Comprehensive Toolkit 

This collection of Close Readings really is amazing. It has several reading passages and supportive tools like the comprehensive toolkit. This can be integrated into daily reading sessions. You can share a personal idea or a success story from using these resources in the classroom and illustrate how effective they are. . 

When you incorporate “Close Reading for All” into the curriculum, you can enhance instruction and engage students when it comes to main idea with supporting details. This makes learning more effective and fun for students and you! 

Implementing Tips for Teaching Main Ideas in Lower Elementary in the Classroom 

Having all the tools is one part of teaching main idea in lower elementary; however, you need to know how to implement them. The key is to thoughtfully blend planning and flexibility. 

Have Weekly Lesson Plans 

When you are making plans, make sure you include main idea lesson into weekly plans. You can start the week with something simple and then gradually increase how complex it is. For example, on Monday, simply identify the main idea in a short paragraph. Then, on Friday, challenge students with a larger passage. 

Use Interactive Learning 

When you are planning, make sure you encourage students to interact with the text by using hands-on learning. You can use a main idea scavenger hunt where students find clues in a text and piece together the main idea. 

Incorporate Close Readings for All 

When you are integrating passages from Close Readings for All into your daily reading sessions, you’re going to have a wide variety of options at your fingertips. You can easily choose passages that work with your weekly theme and differentiate them. Plus, because the package comes with graphic organizers, your students can use them to have an extra resource. 

Have Regular Assessments and Feedback 

Once you start learning about main idea and supporting details, students are going to need feedback. Giving quick assessments at the end of each week can help you see where students are and how far you can push them. In addition, you can use the results to determine what you need to do the following week to make sure you’re meeting each student’s needs. 

Carefully planning and integrating these strategies into the classroom makes it stinkin simple for teachers to effectively teach the main idea to students. 

Tips for Teaching Main Idea in Lower Elementary: Assess for Understanding 

Speaking of assessments, what should you do to assess students in terms of main ideas and supporting details? It doesn’t have to be traditional, you can find fun ways to assess your students. 

Get Creative with Assessments 

You can use creative methods like storytelling or drawing when you are assessing students. For example, after reading a passage, have students draw a scene that shows the main idea. You can also have them tell the story from their point of view and highlight the key details. 

Allow for Feedback and Reflection 

When you assess, make sure you give constructive feedback. Make sure you focus on how well students identified the main idea and the details. Then, encourage self-reflection by asking students to explain their thought process when they were choosing what the main idea was. Asking this question helps you see what supporting details they are pulling out.

Quiz and Question 

Sometimes it’s a good idea to incorporate a quiz with direct and inferential questions about the main idea and details. This can be anything from a multiple choice quiz to fill in the blanks or short answer. You could also have a mixture of all three question types to increase rigor and understanding. 


When you use a variety of assessment methods, you get a clearer picture of what each student knows. Then, you can adjust what you are doing in the classroom to ensure everyone is staying on pace. 

Overcoming Challenges 

Everytime you introduce something new or something that isn’t just black and white your students might struggle a little bit and that is ok! Make sure you address common challenges when you are teaching main idea and supporting details for ultimate success. 

Remember Diverse Learning Styles 

First and foremost, remember no student is going to learn the same way. Some students are visual and will need the graphic organizers to find the main idea and supporting details. Others are more auditory learners, so they maybe be better at verbally explaining the main idea and details. 

Engage with the Text 

Using a variety of texts is important to keep things engaging. Always mix up genres and topics to keep the content fresh and interesting. For example, you might want to alternate between fictional stories, informational texts, and real-world news articles. 

Student Confidence

Building confidence in students is key especially for students who struggle with abstract concepts. Using familiar, everyday examples to explain the main idea and support it with tangible details can be a huge help. Also, doing a traditional close reading style of work can be huge. This means reading the passage one day, reading it again the second and finding the main idea, and finally, reading the passage for the third time to find the supporting details. 

Understanding and addressing these challenges makes it easy for you to create a more inclusive and effective learning environment for teaching main idea and supporting details in lower elementary. 

Incorporating Additional Resources and Activities 

Giving students a variety of resources and activities is the last of our tips for teaching main idea in lower elementary. Having more than one type of resource can help you with teaching main idea and supporting details. 

Utilize Online Tools and Games 

Using interactive games that reinforce the concept of main idea can be a big help. You can use online quizzes, matching games, or videos on YouTube that tell a story where students pair supporting details with the main idea.

Give Book Recommendations 

Giving students options to read can be a big help! Giving your students children’s books with a clear main idea and rich details. Teachers can use these books in read-aloud sessions or independent reading time. 

Do Classroom Activities 

When you are teaching students main idea and supporting details, make sure you have activities like “Main Idea Bag”. With this activity, students pull out objects from and bag and determine the main idea that connects them.


Using additional resources like the ones above can be a great way to give students options and engage them. There are so many tips for teaching main idea to lower elementary students. Using the Close Reading for All Resources is a great place to start. Not only do you get great reading passages, you get graphic organizers and more! 

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