Main idea is one of the toughest skills for kids to grasp, and we even begin teaching it 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. In this post, I share my lesson using Animals in Winter as a mentor text.
The first step with a scaffolded approach is to start with pictures. You might project stock photos for discussion or use the video clip below. You can pause as needed for discussion. Point out the background, facial expressions, and pertinent information. Have students turn and talk about the slides help 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 turned and talked about the details and main idea of each subtopic offering multiple opportunities for learning.
As we worked through the book, I used two sections where I provided the main idea, and the kids listened for evidence (supporting details). Then, we moved to naming the main idea based upon the evidence provided. The kids had two different presentation options to think it out. Here is the freebie I used with the lesson.
Practicing in Guided Reading Groups
Once the students worked through this part of the lesson, we moved to guided reading groups where we worked on the same skill with leveled readers. I selected nonfiction books about animal adaptations for the students to read in their groups. We responded with the graphic organizer on the left.
Literacy Work Stations Ideas
In our work stations, the students practiced two main idea options. The first was a main idea paragraph organizing puzzle from Christina Brainbridge that I really liked. Since it’s early in first grade, we used just one of the paragraphs. I had the kids color code the main idea sentence and the detail sentences and glue them on another paper in the order they felt was best.
Then, the final practice option is from Kaitlynn Albani. It included a short paragraph where the students identified 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.