You may have already done this, but since I don't know here is what I do. I teach main idea for several weeks. I start this unit by first talking about categories. We do categories with things like Things you Wear, Colors, Fruits, Vegetables, etc... We talk about how they are all clothing, food, etc but the broad term or main idea is that they are all vegetables, things you wear, etc.... Then we do categories with story elements. Characters - list ALL characters, Settings - list them all, etc.... Next we go into actual main idea of stories. I start with nonfiction as it is much easier. Then I go into main idea of fiction. I try to pick passages rather than stories in the beginning. We do main idea webs where the "broad" term is in the center and the major events are around the web. This seems to help them think in broader terms. When they include the unimportant information I ask them where on the web it fits. Is it a mjor event or part of a major event. Here is an example of one that came up a few weeks ago. We read a passage on Symbols of the U.S.(we put that in the center of the web). One of the symbols was Uncle Sam. We put him as a major point to the passage. Soon someone else said initials (this was because Uncle Sam's initials are US). I asked if it is a major point or if it is part of a major point. They realized it was part of the major point so I drew a line out from Uncle Sam and included it there. End lesson by restating main idea and underlining the MAJOR points. I hope this makes sense and helps in some way.
Collected strategies for teaching main idea
One thing I did for main idea that the kids really enjoy (3rd graders) is took the kids page from my local paper as well as Scholastic type newspaper/magazines and had them laminated. I collected them for free by having the teachers that buy them give me 1-3 of their extra copies......usually not too difficult. Then I would put them in a center with a variety of options for telling about what they read. Sticky notes for the Main Idea(yellow), 3 supporting facts (pink), and one like and one dislike about the article (blue). I also included copies of ready to use graphic organizers for "Main Idea"! I usually put in at least 3 options in style for the graphic organizers, to give the kiddos some choice. You can also include an option for "This article was so awesome, I want to tell everyone about it!" If the kids found an article that they were really into, they could make a "Main Ideas" poster display and tell the rest of the class about the article. They loved it. I made it a three step process. They first had to do both the sticky notes and at least 1 graphic organizer about it and get them okayed by me. Then they had to use paper and pencil to draw up their poster and a "speech" which also had to be approved by me. Once that was done, they were able to do the fun part.......making their poster for presentation. The sticky notes, graphic organizer, and final poster were to be done in class, but the write up and design on paper were done at home! Hope some of this helps!
I have used two ideas with various age levels that seem to help them understand how main idea and details go together. The first idea I have used forever - the idea of a main idea helping hand. I draw a diagram of a hand. The main idea goes on the palm. The topic sentece is written on the thumb. Four other details are written on the fingers. For the older students I have them draw the wrist and a "bracelet" which has a summary sentence on it.
The second idea is similar but I just found it in a book recently and we used this at our literacy fair this past week. We made Kite Tales. The main idea was a kite cut from construction paper. Next you glue a piece of yarn on for the tail. We had the children then write 3 sentences and tape or glue the "ribbons" on the tail. You could easily make this into a learning center with the details and kites already provided and the students have to match details and main idea together.
I have one idea that really helped my kids on Main idea. I found a blackline of a big umbrella. I gave them several copies. I copied a few pages with good, clear paragraphs from our current reading. (enlarged works best) We found the main idea and put it on the top part of the umbrella and the details hang down from the umbrella. One we got the hang of it, We used the umbrella for help and pated them on a seperate sheet and wrote main idea or detail beside it. To take it further I found paragraphs that have a out of place detail, then they had to find which one didn't fit. We call that the rain because it it outside the main idea. I used the analogy of the umbrella being the main idea and the details are covered by it. I hoope this makes sense--e-mail me if you nee more explanation. I also have a template at home I can send you.
No stupid question...remember what we tell the kids.
I am not sure if you mean main idea vs topic sentence vs the main things that happen in a story or paragraph.
This is my interpretation and I could be way off so someone out there....let me know.
Main idea: the general overall subject matter of what a paragraph is about....a few words.
Main events: the sequence of what is going in a paragraph. 1st this, 2nd that, etc.
Topic sentence: The sentence in the story that expresses what the paragraph is about.
There are some resources that switch the main idea and topic sentence; they call it the topic and the main idea sentence. But as the students get into the older grades, topic sentences are taught the way I mentioned so it is easier to learn it this way first.
Hope this helps.
Our lesson study team just got done doing a great lesson on main idea and supporting details. After doing some lead up lessons as a whole group with picture books (look for details in pictures, coming to a consensus on the main idea of the text), we had students in small groups look at a magazine picture and discuss what details they saw. We gave them a graphic organizer and they had to work together to write down the details around the outside, and come up with a main idea in the center. Finally, students were given four stickers and they had to decide which four details best supported the main idea. They also had the opportunity to share with the class why they felt their detail supported the main idea. If you want more details, let me know!
I have tried a few things in my room for teaching main idea and details. Have you ever heard of "Gourmet Reading?" I got alot of ideas from there. Two of my favorites are: have the kids create hamburgers and show them that the meat is the main idea and all the toppings are the details OR have them make cookies and the chocolate chips are the details. I did the cookie one last year and let them make cookies out of manilla paper and then the choc. chips out of brown construction paper. They had to write on the pieces the main idea and all the details of a passage that we had read. Then we actually made chocolate chip cookies and they LOVED that! I just found that the kids really like these activities since they are hands on.
What I do to start them thinking of main idea isn't a lesson plan but "2 Word Weekend". Every Monday students want to share what they did over the weekend which would normally take forever. Forcing students to share only 2 words really helps by 1) addressing each student 2)thinking of main idea 3)find out how the child's weekend went. For instance - "Picnic -park" or "Dad's house" You get them to focus on tasks while providing an incredibly quick way to let each one know they matter.
In teaching main idea to my fourth graders, I have them trace their hand. In each finger, I have them write the answer to one of the 5 w questions (Who? Did What? When? Where? and Why?)based on the story or article we have just read. Once they can do this we chant a tune similar to "I've Got the Whole World in My Hands" except we sing I've Got the Main Idea in My Hand.
One of my colleagues introduced me to "The Important Book" (sorry I don't have the author's name). It's a simple picture book that takes ordinary objects and uses a cool format to introduce the important thing (main idea) and the details about the objects. I read this book to my class and have used the format often to help them focus their writing so that they aren't scattered all over the place. My only regret is that I didn't know about it at the beginning of the year. Hope this idea helps.
I took a short story and made a copy for each one of my kids. As a class we read the story. I had them cross out any parts that were specific details. We highlighted parts that were a main idea or important to the story (main character, problem, important events, solution). As a class we then wrote a summary based on the highlighted parts. I had the kids try it on their own and at least 70% wrote a quality summary. I think having the kids concretely go through and cross out details helps them to avoid using them in their summaries.