Hands-on Reading: Main Idea & Details

by Hollie Griffith

on March 7, 2015
I am FINALLY getting around to blogging about my latest unit…
I am definitely a believer in a hands-on approach to teaching. Students learn when they are deeply engaged in the learning process. I think that too often, as teachers, we use a hands-on approach in math and science, but expect our students to be silent in reading class. I have to be honest… that was me my first two years of teaching…. boy was I WRONG!!!
From my experience with reading instruction, my students learn best when they are reading, talking about what they are reading, conversing with their friends, moving, and involved in deep discussion. Students learn so much from each other and my reading classroom always has a quiet buzz in the air! Sometimes… a little more than quiet!!! 🙂

This main idea bundle is basically a collection of the activities that I use in my classroom. I finally put it all in once place!!!I love using main idea bags to introduce finding the main idea. This activity is great because it introduces the main idea and is also a lot of fun!   I just put a few items in each bag and students must determine the main idea.


My kiddos completed the  bag activity earlier in the school year!!! This past week I reviewed the skill and provided a lot of practice….. This is what I did…
First, we made this anchor chart… I wanted to make sure that it included multiparagraph passages for some of my higher students.
Then, I provided a lot of opportunities for my students to practice finding the main idea. These activities got them up, moving, talking, and working with their friends.
1. Detail Match It Up – To play this game I gave every student a detail card.  They first had to write their detail under the correct main idea. Then, they had to go around the room to find friends with different details.  They wrote each detail on their recording sheet under the correct main idea.  I had 4 main ideas (front/back of paper) and 12 different details going around the room at the same time. I have 24 students so I just doubled the cards!
2. Sort It Out – My kiddos had to work with a partner to sort different words into four categories.  Then, they have to give each group of cards a main idea.
3.  Match It Up #2 – For this activity I gave every student a main idea or detail card.  They had to read their card and then find their partner.  I printed the main idea cards on one color and the details on another.  I just reminded my students that their partner had to have a different color card! They glued their own card on their paper, wrote their partner’s card, and then worked together to come up with two more details.


In this unit I also included quite a few printables that were great for extra practice and morning work…

And… I wanted to make sure that I included some opportunities for some of higher students to work with finding the main topic and focus of each paragraph in a multiparagraph text.

Two of my guided reading groups had a BLAST reading this passage about food digestion.


Then… I let one of my guided reading groups take it to the next level. And… I was AMAZED with what they could do.  I have some smart kiddos this year!!

I gave them this passage titled Three Types of Rocks.  There were NO paragraphs.  This was hard, but they had to work together to determine where each paragraph should end and begin.  Their thinking was pretty amazing!  I seriously LOVE listening to my kiddos think and problem solve.  It took them about 20 minutes, but they finally came up with a good idea….  One student grabbed a piece of scrap paper and began helping the rest of the group determine the focus of each paragraph! Once they were able to find the focus, they were quickly able to determine where each paragraph should begin and end… AMAZING!!!

They cut out each paragraph and glued it to a piece of construction paper….


On the following day I made my students list the main idea and focus of each paragraph…. (I forgot to take a picture of their work….)
But… it looked something like this…
Here are a few examples of the multiparagraph activities that I included in the unit…
Of course, I had to include a craft of two…
I let my students work with a partner, read a nonfiction story, and then determine the main idea and a few details to support the main idea. I let them pick their craft!!!
They turned out super cute….

Here is a look at the entire unit… You can find it HERE if you are interested….

There you have it…. Next week we are moving on to cause and effect. I have a feeling that a Hands-on Reading: Cause and Effect will be out soon….
Have a great weekend!!!



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