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Teaching Strategies in Special Education: Finding the Main Idea Lesson Plan

written by: Margo Dill • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Finding the main idea can be an extremely difficult skill for elementary students. Some of the teaching strategies in special education can help all students as well as struggling readers or students with IEPs. This lesson plan will provide some modifications to use with students with special needs.

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    In the introduction of this finding the main idea lesson plan, you will make sure students know what a main idea is. How do you explain main idea to students? Here's one way: read a paragraph from a recent unit in social studies or science (some subject that students are familiar with). Tell students what the main idea of the paragraph is. (Don't make them guess or tell you.) Then explain that you found the main idea of the paragraph. Then ask them to tell you what "main idea" means. As a class, you should come up with a definition such as, "Main idea tells you what a section of text is mostly about. All the sentences you read in the section fit with this main idea."

    Some teaching strategies in special education you can use with this introduction are:

    • Make sure to choose the sample paragraph from a text on the students' reading level.
    • Choose a short paragraph.
    • Choose a paragraph where the topic sentence is the main idea.
    • Write the words MAIN IDEA on the chalkboard, and write the definition next to the words.
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    Finding the Main Idea Lesson

    After the introduction of finding the main idea, you are ready to have students practice finding the main idea. Usually non-fiction text is easier for elementary students or students who are beginning this skill. Use interesting text that students are studying in other subjects. You can also use current events. If the material is interesting and relevant, it will hold students' interest and be easier for them when finding the main idea. You will do a couple examples as a whole class.

    Read the paragraph, and write a main idea in students' own words on the board. Then pair students up. Give them a few paragraphs to read and find the main idea. Students should write their ideas on notebook paper. Once students have practiced in pairs, you can give them a few paragraphs to read and practice on their own (for homework even).

    Some teaching strategies in special education you can use with this lesson plan are:

    • Put students in teacher-led small groups to practice finding the main idea before students work in peer-only groups.
    • Give students two choices of main ideas and let them choose the one that fits. (Make one choice ridiculous and the other choice correct. This will give the students words to use but not make the concept too difficult.)
    • Again, make sure the text is on the students' reading level. Read the material out loud for the students if this will help them.
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