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Finding the Main Idea - Grade 4

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Finding the Main Idea - Grade 4

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The main idea or essential message is a summarization or a statement of the most important thing the author is trying to convey to the reader. It is the one question that is asked most often on standardized tests, and it is the one that students often find most difficult. Main idea questions are asked in a variety of ways. Students should be able to find the main idea in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Please see below for a selection of Leveled Lessons for Below Level (basic), and/or On Level (median), and/or Above Level (competent) readers.
Pack Contents
Teaching Tips

After students have read a fiction story, have them help you list every event that happened in the story, no matter how small or insignificant it seemed. Ask, "How could you tell this story to your family using only three of four sentences?" Ask students how the story ENDED. Find that event on the chart and label it #3. Then ask what was the main thing that happened at the beginning? This becomes #1. Then what big event happened in the middle of the story? Label this with #2. These are the main events in the story. (Everything else is a supporting detail.) Have students practice combining these three events into one main idea sentence. This also works for nonfiction, except that instead of listing events from the story, they list all of the facts they can remember. Then pick out the three most important facts and combine them into a main idea sentence. Do not forget to study the main ideas of poems too. Poetry makes up as much as one-third of the passages on some state reading assessments. About 38% of all questions on nationally norm-referenced tests concern the main idea of the passage. As you use these Leveled Learning Packs, be sure to point out to students that test writers use a variety of formats to ask this same question. These include: What would make a good title for the story? What would make a better title for the story? What is this story mainly about? What is the main idea of the story? What is the theme of the story? What is the topic of the story? What is the subject of the story? What is the essential message from the passage?