Tips For Teaching Main Idea

Have you ever felt frustrated or at a loss when teaching the main idea to your students? Sometimes it can feel like you are going around and around without making progress on your students comprehension of the concept. Teaching the main idea to elementary students sounds simple because all the students need to understand is what the story is mostly about. However it can actually be a little tricky.

 Reading comprehension itself is one thing (you can check out my tips for reading comprehension here), catching onto the main idea is another, and this can be a difficult concept for young learners. You want your students to truly understand how to find the main idea and supporting details of a story, but to do that they need to know what it is. I have tried different ways of teaching this concept, and after some trial and error, have found what seems to work for my students. 

Here are some tips for teaching main idea and details

  1. Utilize visuals. For younger students, the more visuals you have, the better! You can use anchor charts or pictures to get students more practice with finding the main idea of different things. 
  2. Use the title. This method is easy and straightforward. Show your students how the title of a story can many times be a clue about what the story is mostly about. 
  3. Read together. When you are reading with your students, pause throughout the story to think out loud with your students and ask them comprehension questions. Showing them how to think about the story when you are reading can help them to do it themselves. 
  4. Use a graphic organizer. There are a lot of graphic organizers out there, but I like to use one that can help my younger students visualize to better understand. A table doesn’t stay up without the legs to support it. This table top organizer uses that concept to help your students put it all together. The tabletop itself  is where you put the main idea and the table legs are where the supporting details go. 

teaching main idea


This graphic organizer goes along with my reading comprehension passages and questions resource. This resource is a yearlong program that helps teach your kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade students reading comprehension with passages, questions, graphic organizers, posters, awards, and more. This resource is versatile enough that you can use it with any of the stories you read with your students. 

teaching main idea

Some of the topics covered include: 

  • Main ideas
  • Details
  • Summarizing inferences 
  • Cause and effect
  • Fact and fiction
  • Conclusions
  • Authors purpose
  • Sequencing
  • Setting 
  • Character traits
  • 72 different reading comprehension passages

Do you have any tricks for teaching main idea? Let me know in the comments!

teaching main idea

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