Lessons & Units

Main Idea 4th Grade Unit


Lesson 1 Topic Sentence Identify the main idea of a paragraph using the topic sentence of the paragraph.
Lesson 2 Distinguishing Main and Secondary Details Distinguish main details from secondary details in a paragraph.

Unit Extension Ideas

  • Have students identify the main idea of fiction and nonfiction paragraphs and passages from the website, and discuss which strategies they used (e.g. topic sentence).
  • Have students create a new title for a chapter based on the main idea of the paragraphs.
  • Copy paragraphs or sections from a book and have students identify the main idea  using the topic sentence.
  • Have students identify secondary details that support the main idea in fiction passages and paragraphs.
  • Have students read a passage and then work with a partner to explain the main idea in their own words.
  • Have students complete a Main Idea Tree. In the middle, have students write the main idea on the “trunk of the tree”. Have students write the details that support the main idea on the “branches.” This graphic organizer will allow students to see the details that support the main idea of a paragraph, section or chapter. (See Additional Activity A Worksheet in Teacher and Student Materials below.)
  • Have students share their writing with a partner and have the partner identify the main idea of each paragraph, the overall main idea, and the title of the story.
  • In nonfiction writing, have students create headings for sections that reflect the main idea of that section. Have students explain how they created the title for the entire piece of writing based on the headings. Students can also work with a partner to create headings for sections of a story their partner wrote or guess the headings based on the main idea of the paragraph.
  • Have students discuss the main ideas of their paragraphs and help them revise by adding details that support the main idea and deleting details that do not.   
  • Challenge students to vary the placement of their topic sentences within each paragraph. Also, examine paragraphs in which  the topic sentence is not the first or last sentence.
  • Provide students with a main idea and several details. Have them use this information to write a paragraph.
  • Have students read a Concepts of Comprehension© Reading Passage (provided on website) and identify the topic sentence and secondary details.
  • Have students write the main idea of a paragraph or section of their science or social studies textbooks.

More Books for Teaching Main Idea

American Revolution: A Companion to the Revolutionary War on Wednesday (Magic Tree House Research Guides)
If You Lived in Colonial Times
George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen  Both Sides
Great Planet Earth Search
Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
Five Smooth Stones: Hope's Revolutionary War Diary
The Digestive System: A True Book
Abraham Lincoln
How Would You Survive in the Middle Ages?

User Comments

Thanks, wonderful sight.

Fantastic lesson plans and resources. Thank you.

Great stories and graphic organizers!

I reviewed Grade 3 comprehension and it is great! I would like to see the 4the grade unit

My students absolutely LOVE these stories and are really learning the concept of main idea through them. Thank you!

Great lesson plans, texts, and resources. Thank you! :-)