Teaching Main Idea with Animals in Winter

Main idea is one of the toughest skills for kids to grasp, and we even begin with main idea in first grade! This post breaks it down with a gradual release using Animals in Winter. Freebies included

Main idea is one of the toughest skills for kids to grasp, and we even begin with main idea in first grade! For first graders, we will limit main idea to short sections of text. In fact, with a gradual release model, you can  even begin with photographs.

Begin with Discussing the Main Idea of Pictures

Show the video clip to your class pausing as needed for discussion. Point out the background, facial expressions, and pertinent information. Having students turn and talk about each slide helps build interest too.

Modeling Main Idea with Animals in Winter


Once you've discussed a few photos, you can move to modeling with text. For this lesson, I chose the book, Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft. I really liked that this book had a clear topic and four subtopics that I could use to work on main idea in increments. As I read it, we will turn and talk about the details and main idea of each subtopic offering multiple opportunities for learning.


Main idea is one of the toughest skills for kids to grasp, and we even begin with main idea in first grade! This post breaks it down with a gradual release using Animals in Winter. Freebies included.
As we work, I used two sections where I provided the main idea, and we'll listen for evidence (supporting details). Then, we'll move to naming the main idea based upon the evidence provided. The kids will have two different presentation options to think it out. Here is the freebie I'm using with the lesson.




Guided Reading Groups

Main idea is one of the toughest skills for kids to grasp, and we even begin with main idea in first grade! This post breaks it down with a gradual release using Animals in Winter. Freebies included.
Once the students have worked through this part of the lesson, we'll move to guided reading groups where we'll continue working on main idea. I've selected leveled nonfiction books about animal adaptations for the students to read in their groups. We'll be responding with the graphic organizer below.

Literacy Work Stations


Main Ideas and Supporting Details Race Freebie!
In our work stations, the students will practice two main idea options. The first is a main idea paragraph organizing puzzle from Christina Brainbridge that I really liked. Since it's early in first grade, we're using just one of the paragraphs. I am going to have the kids color code the main idea sentence and the detail sentences and glue them on another paper in the order they feel is best. 

FREE Main Idea Practice Pages for BeginnersThen, the final practice option is from Kaitlynn Albani. It includes a short paragraph where the students will identify the main idea and the supporting detail sentences from three options. I added three more similar options of my own to differentiate this part since the class I'm working with has a range of readers. 

Teaching main idea is an ongoing process as our kids continue to practice throughout elementary school. Because of this, we need LOTS of teaching options to present the skill in a way our students understand. 

I hope you enjoy giving this a try, and that you come back soon.


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Main idea is one of the toughest skills for kids to grasp, and we even begin with main idea in first grade! This post breaks it down with a gradual release using Animals in Winter. Freebies included.

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