Teaching Main Idea

Monday, October 8, 2018
*In order to bring you free resources, this post does contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from the links on this page I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog.

Teaching Main Idea can be tricky. I mean, after all, how many different ways can you demonstrate the same skill?

My team and I use the Lucy Calkins reading and writing units of study. We are currently teaching Reading the Weather, Reading the World - our first nonfiction reading unit of the year. In this unit we really focus on the understanding of identifying the Main Idea and key details after reading a portion of text.

My team and I have a created a "Conferring Quick Guide" to use while we meet with students one-on-one or in small group. Over the years we've pulled strategies from a variety of resources. This year, we've worked to compile them in one quick place to use while we're working with students.

Take a look...

When you reach the FREE DOWNLOAD at the end of the post, you'll notice that the "Conferring Quick Guide" is organized into an approaching, a level 2 and a level 3 format. We used the Lucy Calkins progression for to assess what our students ARE doing. We then use those strategies to move them to the next level.

The strategies in our "Conferring Quick Guide come from Jennifer Serravallo, our IRA Book and the spiral from our unit of study.

One of my all time favorite books is Jennifer Serravallo's Reading Strategies Book. I firmly believe this should be a staple in ALL classrooms. Check it out if you don't have a copy yet.

Another thing that works for us is that we create small handouts of the anchor charts or strategy steps. This is what we leave with students after our time with them. Students then have the chart as a reminder and a tool to apply the strategy independently. 

I used clear pockets on the backs of my pages to hold anchor charts. It's a great way to store these small slips of paper without taking up too much room.

Finally, the last thing I bring with me while conferring are my demonstration books. We have selected two books that support our class read aloud for the unit. Throughout these books I've marked up places where specific strategies can be modeled and then tried in a guided practice format. Having these books marked up ahead of time helps to keep my conferring time short and sweet! It also provides real application of the skill, rather than work on a worksheet. I notice that when my students are able to practice their strategy in a book, they're more likely to transfer the work to their own books as well.

The books we used in our "Conferring Quick Guide" are Hurricane and Tornado and Drought and Heat Wave Alert. In the download you'll notice that there are pages and sections marked in each book to use for modeling and guided practice.


Finally, here's the part you've all been waiting for! The FREE DOWNLOADS!

Click here to access the CONFERRING QUICK GUIDE.
Click here to access the STRATEGY CARDS.
*You will have "View Only" rights to these documents. To edit them, click file "Make a Copy" and then you'll have a personal copy to edit/change/share/etc."

Thanks for taking the time to check out our Main Idea resources! I'd love to hear your best strategy for teaching Main Idea in the comments below!


  1. Thank you so much for these resources...they are AMAZING!!! One strategy I ask my kiddos to do is look for repeating words...that might guide them to come up with what the author is trying to teach you=main idea. :)

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