The three dreaded pieces of a reading assignment to any student. Most students take a stab at a word in the first sentence to find topic and main idea and then pick something from the middle for a detail. There’s a 50/50 chance they will get partial points using that strategy. Well, hold on to your hats; I have a better way.
I attended another professional development class from my favorite source for good reading strategies– KUCRL. This time, I got some tips for helping students identify topic, main, idea, and detail.
- To find the topic of a paragraph or article, use the sentence prompt, “This paragraph/article is about _____.” The one or two words that complete the sentence is the topic. If a student is still lost, the topic will often appear in the title and/or first or last sentence of the paragraph, so look there while using the prompt.
- To find a main idea within a paragraph, locate the topic first. Then ask yourself, “What does this paragraph tell me about the topic?” Insert your topic at the end of the question. The answer to your question is the main idea.
- To find important details, use the main idea. Ask yourself, “What is specific information about the main idea?” Insert your main idea at the end of the question. The ideas that answer the question are the key details.
Read the paragraph and give it a try.
Topic: This paragraph is about ice cream sundaes.
Main Idea: What does this paragraph tell me about ice cream sundaes? This paragraph talks about sundae ingredients. The main idea is ice cream sundae ingredients.
Details: What is specific information about the ingredients? Key details are ice cream flavors, sauces, and different kinds of toppings.
These prompts help with standardized test preparation for reading comprehension. They also work well when looking for the important “stuff” while reading textbooks. Finally, this is a great way to pick out the essential information in any non-fiction reading assignment. It provides a structured way for students to weed out non-important details and zero in on the meat of the text in order to take notes for research projects or preparing for class discussion and tests.
If you are looking for teaching materials that help with these skills, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to purchase activities that reinforce reading skills like topic, main idea, details, and paraphrasing.