Teaching the Main Idea for Non-Fiction

Oh, the joys of teaching second graders the main idea.  By this point in the year, we get it.


Mostly because we spent the better part of six weeks creating animal reports.  The students chose their own animal, gathered research, and wrote several 'chapters' on the information they learned.  Paired with our study of informational text, my kiddos seem to have a grasp on the purpose of a table of contents, headings, and bold text.

Which is good.

But although teaching the concept of 'main idea' isn't necessarily complicated, this year I've discovered that there is a major deficit of text that supports this teaching in a straightforward way.

We always use good literature to learn about writing.  So, I had my sweet little second graders slaving over every non-fiction book in my library looking for topic sentences, detail sentences, and conclusion sentences.

It was not so hot.

Do you know how many great non-fiction books lack the same structure we try to teach?  The books are so well written that they lack the 'topic sentence, details, conclusion' that all of my graphic organizers scream! What's a girl to do?

Well, a girl's to back up and create something that actually practices what she's preaching!

The need: My kiddos need to understand how to identify a main idea by reading related NON-FICTION sentences.  They need to recognize which main idea matches their details, and which doesn't.

Enter this fancy center!  It was a HUGE HIT! (Click the picture to purchase.)

The students were buzzing, reading, and discussing which question matched their details.  They were SO engaged! I loved hearing them debate which questions matched their details and which didn't. I was so pleased with how it helped them understand this concept.

And since it worked so well, I decided to remaster the set for Winter!

Now if we could only master restating the topic sentence into a conclusion...


  1. Just went and bought this! I love it! So excited to find your blog and these great bags!

    1. Hi Heidi! I'm so glad! Can't wait to hear how they work out in your room. :)


  2. Wow-I was shopping at TPT for resources for next year and came across your main ideas bags but could not visualize whether they would be beneficial for my resource classes next year. I came across the link to your blog and was happy to see that it is just what I am looking for (even though it is a middle school resource class-your activities do not like childish and are perfect). Thank you from your newest follower, Heather


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