Identifying the Main Idea of a Text

Contributor: Alison Weiss. Lesson ID: 10465

Has anyone ever asked you, "What's the big idea?" Knowing the big — or main — idea of a text is important for understanding, enjoying, and relating it. Discover how here!


Comprehension, Reading

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Do your parents ask you about the things you read?
  • Do you struggle to explain the article, book, or story to them?

If you do, learn how to pick out the main idea of a text!

The main idea is what the text mainly discusses.

Identifying the main idea can help you do other things, like summarize and retell! That will come in handy the next time your parents ask, "What are you reading about?"

  • How do you start finding the main idea?

Here is a list of things to consider when identifying the main idea.

  • title of the text
  • topic of the text
  • headings or subheadings
  • pictures and their captions
  • clue words that are used more than once
  • first and last sentence

These elements are all in the Main Idea Graphic Organizer found in the Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. You can print this now.

You can't determine a text's main idea before you read the whole text. Here is how you should read a text before determining and identifying the main idea.

  1. Read the title and ask yourself, "What will this text be about?" Then, read the first paragraph. Sometimes, the main idea is actually in the first sentence of the text!
  1. Read the rest of the text. Make sure to pause at the end of each paragraph and ask yourself, "What was this paragraph mostly about?"
  1. Keep your eye out for repeated words that you see more than once. Also, look at the pictures, if any, and read the captions.
  1. When you read the last paragraph, pay close attention because the main idea is sometimes in the last sentence.
  1. When you are done reading the text, take a minute or two to think about what the text was mainly about.
  1. Once you have identified the main idea, write it down in a sentence on your sheet of paper.

Head over to the Got It? section to keep going!

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