Main Idea Lesson Plans & Activities for 1st-2nd Grade

Gathering a collection of lessons and activities on main ideas helps you to put together plans to help your first-grade students with reading comprehension. Explore main idea lesson plans and activities for your first and second grade students. Get several activities you can modify for your students.

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Hamburger Main Ideas Lesson Plan For 1st and 2nd Grade

This lesson plan is designed for 1st and 2nd-grade students. For this lesson plan and activity, you’ll need access to paper, simple images, printouts, and paragraphs to read to the class for the main idea direct instruction.

Lesson Objectives

After completion of this lesson, students will be able to identify the main idea in works of fiction and nonfiction.

Warm-Up Main Idea Activity

To begin this lesson, project a simple image to your class on the board. The image you project depends on the level of your classroom. For 1st graders, keep it very simple, but make it a bit more complex for 2nd graders.

  1. Ask students to look at the picture for a minute or two.
  2. Discuss as a group what is happening in the picture.
  3. Have students create a sentence describing what is happening in the picture.
  4. Come together as a class and allow students to share their sentences and discuss.

Teaching Main Idea to 1st and 2nd Grade Students

To make this easier or harder for your students depending on how advanced they are, you can choose an easier or harder paragraph for them to dissect as a class to ensure you are challenging them. For example, for an advanced 2nd-grade classroom, you might choose a non-fiction paragraph from a newspaper. However, for a younger or less advanced 1st-grade class, choose a simple paragraph from a storybook.

  1. You need to write or project a definition of the main idea and supporting details on the board for your class.
  2. Read the definition of the main idea and supporting details to the class.
  3. Project a short, simple paragraph on the board.
  4. As a group, break down how to find the main idea of the paragraph and the supporting details.
  5. Project the hamburger printable on the board.
  6. Model for students how the main idea is the meat of the hamburger, while the supporting details are the condiments and bun.
  7. Continue this as a group through several different simple paragraphs until students have a good understanding of the main idea and supporting details.
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Umbrella Main Idea Activity

You need to print off handouts of an umbrella for each student in your class.

  1. Provide each student with an umbrella handout.
  2. Read a short storybook with a clear main idea to the class.
  3. Have students use their handouts to identify the main idea and supporting details of the story.

Main Idea Scavenger Hunt Activity

To get students moving, you can try a main idea scavenger hunt rather than a printout. For this activity, write several main idea sentences for groups of students to choose from. You’ll also need to make sure to include items around the room that deal with your specific main ideas. For example, the main idea could be "loving those around you," and students might find a book about friendship or love, a heart eraser, etc.

  1. Group students.
  2. Give each group the main idea sentence.
  3. Have them search the room to find three to five items that fit with their main idea.
  4. Allow students to share what they found.

Create a Story Main Idea Lesson Plan

This 1st or 2nd-grade lesson plan allows students to get a bit more creative with their learning.

Lesson Objective

After this lesson, students should understand main ideas and how to synthesize them.

Teaching Main Ideas to 1st and 2nd graders

For this lesson, you need to have access to several nonfiction paragraphs or stories.

  1. Read a very brief passage or a paragraph to the class.
  2. Ask students what they thought the paragraph was about.
  3. Model for them how to sum up the paragraph in just a few words. For such a young age level, you might need to allow three to five words.
  4. Read another paragraph.
  5. Allow students to use what they've learned to sum up the paragraph in 2-5 words.
  6. Allow students to share their summaries.
  7. Repeat as necessary until students understand main idea.
  8. Read another paragraph to students.
  9. Have students write out a two-word summary.
  10. Pair students with a seat partner.
  11. Allow them to compare their descriptions.
  12. Have a few students share their synthesis with the class.
  13. Repeat the activity with a new paragraph.

The primary purpose is to get students to synthesize a large amount of information into the most important points.

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Create a Story Main Idea Activity

For this activity, you need to fold a few pieces of printer paper together to create a multi-page storybook.

  1. On a blank piece of notebook paper, have students create a short story.
  2. Allow them to use the printer paper book to write and illustrate their story.
  3. On the back of the book, have them write the main idea of their story in one sentence.
  4. Note that this activity might carry over into a few days depending on the class.

Main Idea Lesson Plans

Lesson plans and activities for main idea can be hard to think up sometimes. The ideas provided here will help make your life a little easier. For more free lesson plans check out storytelling lesson plans for 1st grade.