Main Idea (Grades 3-4)


With our Main Idea lesson plan for grades 3-4, students learn how to determine the main idea of a text and how to identify supporting details. Students are also asked to differentiate between main ideas and supporting details.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to use the students’ current reading material as an example for them to practice identifying the main idea and supporting details.

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What our Main Idea (Grades 3-4) lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Main Idea develops students’ ability to identify main ideas and the details which support it. Students will also learn how to write their own paragraphs and text with a main idea and several supporting details.  This lesson is for students in 3rd grade and 4th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The supplies you will need for this lesson are scissors, colored pencils, glue or paste, construction paper, and the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can gather the supplies and copy the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to extend the lesson opening by asking a different group of students a different question (such as “What are the sports you play?”). You could also use a graphic organizer to help students identify the main idea and supporting details in a text. You can use the students’ current reading material as an example for students to practice identifying the main idea and supporting details. Finally, you could consider using non-fiction materials to illustrate these concepts.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


Main Idea

The Main Idea (Grades 3-4) lesson plan includes two content pages. The lesson begins by asking students if they’ve ever told someone else a story about the people or things in a photograph. In the process of doing that, students are looking at the photo and determining what the main idea is. We define the main idea as the most important or key thoughts of a sentence, paragraph, story, or picture.

The lesson includes a picture of palm trees, sandals, beach chairs, and a beach. It suggests to students that the main idea for this picture could be “How I spent my summer vacation” or “The day at the beach.” The lesson then includes a paragraph with more details for each of these main ideas to illustrate how the main idea causes the details of the story to change.

The main idea, in writing, is what a sentence or paragraph is about. This is different from a topic. For example, your teacher may ask you to write about your summer vacation. That’s the topic of your writing. If you write a sentence about what the sand looked, felt, and smelled like, that sentence would have the main idea of the sand. The details would be what the sand looked, felt, and smelled like. Main ideas include supporting details. These give more information about the main idea. The lesson then includes an additional example of a paragraph where the sentence about sand is the main idea of the entire paragraph.

More Examples & Steps to Find the Main Idea

In another example paragraph, the main idea is about someone and their friend surfing. The rest of the paragraph provides details about their experience surfing. These details include how they surfed, what happened, and what experiences they had.

The lesson provides some helpful steps that can help you find the main idea of a text. Both whole texts and individual paragraphs within a text have main ideas and supporting details. The five steps are: 1. Identify the topic, 2. Read through the paragraph, 3. Find some of the details, 4. Identify the sentence the details are about, 5. You found the main idea.

Next, the lesson includes a paragraph and asks students to try to find the main idea. In this example, the main topic is about which bedroom someone chose when moving into a new house. The rest of the paragraph provides details about the bedroom.

The more students practice reading and identifying the main idea, the easier it will become! Being able to find the main idea will also make students better writers.


The Main Idea (Grades 3-4) lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


The activity worksheet asks students to create four paragraphs with clear main ideas and supporting details using sentences that are provided for them. They will cut the sentences out and then arrange them into paragraphs. They will then use a colored pencil to shade in the sentence with the main idea. Next, they will glue or paste the sentences onto construction paper in the correct order.

They will then write a fifth paragraph with a main idea sentence and four supporting details that they will come up with, and will paste that onto the construction paper as well. Finally, they will create a title for each of the five paragraphs. This will allow students to practice identifying and creating main idea and supporting details.

Students may work in pairs for this activity if you’d prefer.


For the practice worksheet, students will read sentences and decide if they would be main ideas or supporting details. They will then fill in the blanks in a paragraph with words related to the lesson content.


The homework assignment asks students to read several paragraphs and underline the main idea in each. They will also look at a picture and, using it as a guide, write down a main idea and four supporting details about the picture.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the activity worksheet, the practice worksheet, and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade


Reading, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.1.D, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.4

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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