Identifying the Main Idea of a Text

Contributor: Alison Weiss. Lesson ID: 10465

Did you parents ever say to you, "What's the big idea?" Knowing the big, or main, idea of a text is important for understanding, enjoying, and relating a text. Night animals will help you learn today!


Comprehension, Reading

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

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • Do your parents ask you about the things you read?

If they do, and you often struggle trying to tell them about your article, book, or whatever, you will benefit from learning how to pick out the main idea of a text!

The main idea is what the text is mainly or mostly discussing. When you identify the main idea, it can help you do other things, like summarize and retellThat will come in handy the next time your parents ask, "What are you reading about?"  

  • So, how do you get started finding the main idea?

Here is a list of things to look for when you are trying to identify the main idea: 

  • The title of the text 
  • Topic of the text 
  • Headings or subheadings 
  • Pictures and their captions 
  • Clue words that are used more than once 
  • The 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 what the main idea of a text is before you read the whole text. Here is how you should read a text before determining and identifying the main idea:

First, read the title and ask yourself, “What is this text going to be about?” Then, read the first paragraph. Sometimes the main idea is actually in the first sentence of the text! 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?” Keep your eye out for words that are repeated, that you see more than once. Also, make sure you really look at the pictures if there are any and read the captions. When you read the last paragraph, pay close attention, because sometimes the main idea is in the last sentence.  

When you are done reading the text, take a minute or two to think about what the text was mainly about. Once you think you have identified the main idea, write it down in a sentence on your sheet of paper.

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