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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Non-Fiction Main Idea

Have extra Time for Kids or Scholastic News pages cluttering your room? I have the perfect activity for you! (and if you have neither, you can easily go to or a similar site and print off kid friendly articles, like I did, for this project!) My kids usually do fairly well determining the main idea of a fiction passage or story using the poster I shared HERE. Determining the main idea of non-fiction articles and books becomes a little bit more tricky for some of my students. Although I do eventually teach the 5 "W"s when we move into summarizing, I initially introduce non-fiction main idea with this concept.

It's not as overwhelming as all 5 of the "W"s and the kids are usually pretty good at remembering the little saying.  I WILL also emphasize that the "why" can also be "how" in some cases.  We then talk about how a lot of the time, a title of a non-fiction piece of writing will often give you a broad idea of the main idea.

To practice non-fiction main idea, I cut out a bunch of old Time For Kids and Scholastic News Articles and then printed some off the internet as well.  I cut all of the titles off, fold a piece of construction paper in half, and then glue the article itself on the front flap and the title on the inside flap.  I paperclip the flaps together, and number each article.  The kids are then charged with re-writing the title of each article to represent the main idea of the article.  (I also explain that sometimes the real articles have "catchy" titles, so I let the kids write two titles if they want to--a main idea statement title, and a catchy title that encompasses the main idea).  When the kids are done, they can take a look at the title on the inside and then move on to the next one.

The kids have always enjoyed this, and they often see it as a challenge to come up with a title as appropriate as possible (and then have fun coming up with a catchy one, too).  I have used it for years, and by the end of the stack, the students are excellent at writing main idea statements.