Last week we worked on main idea...again. I swear I could teach this every single week and some just still wouldn't get it. We started with an article I found on Readworks.org about kids getting healthy. This was meant to be independent practice (and on the second day) but I had to modify it to fit into our 4 day week. The kids were really interested in this article and we went through each paragraph discussing the main idea of each. Then we took them all and came up with the main idea of the entire article. During this activity is when I noticed that some of my students wanted to give too much information. They KNEW the main idea, but kept giving details with it. I knew I had to figure out a way to put an end to that otherwise on state testing they would definitely be picking the details.
The next day I gave each student an index card and told them to think about their favorite movie or tv show. I had them each write ONE sentence telling me what the show was about and draw a quick picture to go with it. Then each student read out their sentences and the students who had seen the show/movie would say whether it was correct or not. This seemed to be the lightbulb moment for them because they weren't allowed to tell me all the little details.
Students then paired off and each got a different story to read and identify the main idea of. They THEN had to come up with 2 details to go with the main idea of the story.
My kids (so far) are doing really well with this and I have some that are even able to explain WHY some of the choices are wrong ("the whole article isn't about ____" or "there aren't any details to go with this, so it can't be the main idea"). We had to stop and so now the articles are all in a basket for students to work on during their free time (and they actually WANT to). The articles are all nonfiction (she has another winter set that has a mix a fiction and nonfiction) and really engaging! My kids were so intrigued by some of the articles that I promised them that we could do an ocean animals unit towards the end of the year. If your kiddos struggle with main idea, or even being engaged in short nonfiction articles, I HIGHLY suggest taking a look at these. They can be used independently, differentiated, or as center activities. My kids love them and actually want to do work in their free time! That is a sure sign of a great activity! Thanks Tracy for creating something so amazing!