Secrets to Success
Language Arts instructors have been teaching the main idea concept for years. Learning how to identify it in reading passages is an indicator for many grade levels at the elementary, middle and high school level.
Explanation for Finding it While Reading
First, students need to understand what a main idea is. It is the important or key information of a paragraph or passage. One easy way to explain this to students is to share the following example:
If you have read a great book and want to tell your friend about it, you are essential giving them the main idea of the book when you tell them in a couple of sentences about it.
Paragraphs: There are topic sentences for paragraphs, which are ones too. These are generally clearly stated in a sentence; many times they are the first sentence of a paragraph. However, it can be found at the end or in the middle as well. It can even be implied or not directly stated.
Passages: When finding the main idea for a whole passage, the main idea is many times not stated. It will need to be inferred or guessed from all of the available information in the passage. Because this is a higher level thinking skill, some students may struggle to identify it.
Writing a Main Idea
The main idea or topic sentence of a paragraph should state the topic and the controlling idea. The topic is what the paragraph is about and the controlling idea is the directions the writer wants to go with the topic.
For example, the topic of a paragraph that a student chooses to write could be video games. However, this is not a topic sentence. This paragraph could go in many directions, such the cost, types, graphics, controllers, amount of players, etc.
Topics: video games
Controlling ideas: types of controllers
Main idea of a paragraph: The types of controllers for video games can be hand held in a variety of shapes or one that allows the motion of the body or the sound of your voice to become the controller.