Text Detectives Find the Main Idea

Contributor: Melissa LaRusso. Lesson ID: 10274

Finding the main idea of a book or article is the key to understanding the text. You will become a "text detective" by following three simple steps to determine the main idea of a passage or book!


Literary Studies

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Have you ever gotten into trouble and had an adult ask you, "What's the big idea?" Have you ever read something and not been able to figure out what the author was getting at? Books and other writings have a big, or main, idea. How can you be a text detective to find the main idea?

What is the main idea?

Before looking for the main idea, it helps to understand the term, "main idea." A detective can't search for a stolen car without knowing what the car looks like.

  • Open this PDF document from SoftSchools.com to see a worksheet that goes over the Main Idea to see some examples with practice problems. You can print it out and fill it out.

  • Explore the main idea concept in the Introduction to Reading Skills: Main Idea/Topic Episode 1 video from McGraw-Hill Education Pre-K-12 below. Do you agree with the main idea? Why or why not?


How do you find the main idea?

  1. Read the story carefully.

  1. Identify who or what the sentence, paragraph, or passage is about (Hint: this is a person, place, thing, or animal).

  1. Tell what is most important about the who or what.

  1. Put Numbers 2 and 3 together to describe the who or what in less than 10 words.

Why should a reader find the main idea?

Determining the main idea improves reading comprehension in all content areas. It also improves the reader's ability to write a summary.

Think about this for a bit, then move on to the Got It? section to practice identifying the main idea.

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