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Main Idea/Details lesson


Amy 3rdgrade

I am looking for a fun way to teach main idea/details. I will be doing a small workshop that will only last 20 minutes. I would like to do something fun with the kids, something hands on if I can come up with something. Any ideas?


Full Member
don't know about hands on, but...

I use a simple graphic organizer of a wedding tent with a happy bride and groom under it. You could use anything, doesn't have to be marriage. Anyway, the main idea/topic sentence goes up in the triangle part of the tent. There are three legs holding up the tent - turn the paper sideways and write one supporting detail on each leg so that the tent doesn't collapse and crush the happy couple. Some of them have a hard time connecting the details and the main idea - if they do, I ask them verbally why they think their main idea is true. If they can't tell me, they probably don't feel strongly enough or know enough about it, and I have them think of something else to write about. The kids each draw their own tent to save copies, and they like having an excuse to draw. After they fill in the graphic organizer, they turn it into a paragraph, finishing it up with a "sum up/wrap up" sentence that restates their main idea. I also use the same g.o. to help them find the main idea and supporting details in other people's paragraphs.


Senior Member
Here's an idea for writing a paragraph with a main idea and details. It could be used to find them in paragraphs as well I think.
Hamburger Paragraph

Top Bun= Introduction (Every hamburger needs a top bun, every paragraph needs an introduction.)
Fixings=Details (A hamburger is boring without them, so is a paragraph)
Burger= The "meat" of the paragraph or the facts.
Bottom Bun= Conclusion

*The purpose of the bun it to hold the ingredients together (topic and concluding sentences).
*The bun gives you something to grab on to.
*All fixings need to go with the burger. All the details need to go with the paragraph topic.
*The fixings make the burger unique and interesting. The details make the paragraph unique.
*Burgers can be cooked rare, medium, or well done (How much time are you willing to put into the process?)

You can put up a hamburger and the parts on the wall in your classroom to remind students that they need all of the parts. For hands-on, they could have the parts such as "cheese" etc, made from construction paper to add onto their "bun".

When I teach about the hamburger paragraph, I assign a paragraph and then have students highlight each part of the hamburger paragraph. Then they need to decide where they need more.


Depending on the age, have the child write something and then the teacher asks he/she what the main topic of their story is.