Main Idea & Details Activities, Scaffolded Practice to Build Understanding

Grade Levels
2nd - 4th, Homeschool
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
  • Google Apps™
83 pages
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The Teacher-Author indicated this resource includes assets from Google Workspace (e.g. docs, slides, etc.).

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Teaching main idea and supporting details can be frustrating and difficult for students to understand - this best selling resource will change that. It is scaffolded to help all of your students - even your struggling students - better understand main idea. As an added bonus, most of the activities are no prep! And it now includes a digital version for use with Google Slides / Google Classroom!

These activities are self-explanatory and could be completed by students independently in a distance learning packet. Depending on your students, you could remove the task cards from the packet.

This main idea unit starts easy (with activities that make a great introduction for beginners) and gets increasingly more difficult to help students develop a true understanding of the difference between topic, main idea, and key details. There are variety if different activities and strategies practiced, making it easy for you to differentiate based on student needs.

Students will get to practice their main idea skills in both fiction and nonfiction / informational text.

Save over 35% when you buy this main idea resource as part of my Reading Skills Bundle!

Each section of this resource addresses a different aspect of main idea that is sometimes confusing for students.

  • Topic Vs. Details - This section is designed to help students better understand the difference between the topic and supporting details. This is a necessary skill before students can distinguish between main idea and details. Students will complete several activities, including sorting words into groups and determining what the overall topic is. Students will also complete graphic organizers, thinking about how details are related to each other and to a topic.
  • Titles Give Clues to the Main Idea - This section is designed to help students think about how titles can help you figure out the main idea of a passage. Students will read short paragraphs on related topics and think about appropriate titles for each of the paragraphs.
  • Details Should Support the Main Idea - This section is designed to help students understand how details in a paragraph should help support the main idea of the paragraph. Students will read many short paragraphs that each have a detail that doesn't support the main idea of the paragraph. Students must figure out which sentence doesn't "belong." As an extension activity, students will read paragraphs, and then add a detail that supports the paragraph.
  • Main Idea Vs. Details - This section is designed to help students better understand the difference between main ideas and details. Students use scaffolded graphic organizers to help better understand this difference. Students are given a short paragraph and 4 sentences about the paragraph. They must determine which sentence represents the main idea of the paragraph, and which sentences are details, and fill in a graphic organizer appropriately. Students will also get to practice this skill without the scaffolding.
  • Practicing Main Idea in Longer Texts - This section is designed to help students practice what they have learned in longer texts. There are 4 texts, each with an accompanying main idea activity. 2 of the texts have multiple choice questions, all geared towards main idea to help you with your test prep. 2 of the texts have scaffolded graphic organizers for students to fill out about the text. There are 2 fiction and 2 informational texts.

There are also 3 blank graphic organizers that you can use with any text.

These main idea practice activities can be used for small groups, assessments/test, center activities, explicit instruction, reading comprehension practice, reading workshop, for special education students, for main idea test prep, for reading stations, and more.

An answer key is included.

This directly addresses common core standards: RI 2.2, RI 3.2, RI 4.2 for 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th grade students.

Some comments about this main idea upper elementary resource:

"Oh gosh, I wish I could give this product more stars! This has been a HUGE help with all of my students in better understanding main idea. I originally got it to use for small group help for just a few students, but it has helped everyone gain a deeper understanding of main idea. I love how each activity builds off of the previous activity. Every activity is slightly different and keeps students engaged. There are lots of versions of each type of activity so you can practice whole group, partners, and independent. I so appreciated that there were answer keys too. This is my favorite product I have purchased on here in a LONG time! I will be checking out your other products for sure. Thank you!!"

"After downloading the free version and using it, I went ahead and bought the complete packet. This is an excellent resource. This is the closest thing to "scaffolding" I have seen in ages. We talk a lot about "main idea" but only give our students a paragraph and expect them to figure it out. This packet (the complete paid version of it) goes step by step and brings the student slowly but surely to the point of understanding. I work with at-risk middle school students who are reading at a 2nd and 3rd grade level. This resource has been an eye-opener for them. They think they know everything because they can decipher words on a page, but they can't separate details from the subject. This resource helps me retrain their eyes. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!"

"This is a very engaging way to teach main idea to students who struggle with this concept. My special ed. kiddos did a great job with this unit!"

More Teaching Made Practical (Kalena Baker) resources like this:

Teaching Theme - Scaffolded Unit

Teaching Summarizing - Scaffolded UnitTeaching

Equivalent Fractions - Scaffolded Unit

Total Pages
83 pages
Answer Key
Included with rubric
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.


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