Determine the Main Idea: Teaching Tips and Reading Strategies

Tip 1: “STOP & Spot The Lead”

  • Read the introduction of the article, and then STOP and “spot the lead.”
  • Use the highlighting feature to mark the main idea sentence of the article.
    • This is a real life skill! College professors call this a "thesis." Journalists call it the "lead." It is usually found in the first few paragraphs of the article!
  • If you cannot find the sentence, that’s OK. You can make an annotation instead that answers the 5 W Questions:
    • Who is the article about?
    • Where did the event take place?
    • When did it take place?
    • What is the main topic?
    • Why is   this important?
  • “Spotting the lead” in an article will help you reflect on the central idea before moving on to other sections. It will help you understand how the next sections fit into the main idea.

Tip 2: “Ask Yourself Questions”

  • Write out your answer to this question immediately after you finish reading. What did the author want me to learn about this topic?
  • It is even helpful to start your sentence with the words, "The author wanted me to learn..." This will help you think about the main idea.
  • You can write this on scratch paper and look back at it as you answer multiple choice questions.
  • For Fun: You can also write your answer in the form of a Tweet! Use hashtags to show the most important words in your Tweet.

Tip 3: “Break It Down Now”

  • After you finish the article, go back and analyze for the key idea that each section focused on. Add an annotation next to each section's sub-heading that starts with the words, "This section is about..." This will help you think about the main ideas in each section.
  • Then, do the same thing to the article's title, but write an annotation that starts with the words, "This article was about..."
  • This simple exercise will help you analyze the article for its most important take aways.
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