Identifying the main idea of a story or paragraph can be a challenge for middle school students. There are activities that work well in the classroom to improve students' understanding of the main idea. Presenting the material in a variety of ways helps students better understand the concept. Main idea activities are also effective throughout the year as a quick refresher.

Oral Recaps

A quick way to practice identifying main ideas is to have students orally state the main point of a passage. You can read a short paragraph or excerpt from a story for this activity. After reading the passage, a student volunteer gives a verbal recap of it. The rest of the class decides if the student stated the main idea or the main focus of the passage. Others can help narrow the focus or help eliminate extra details. Working together as a group helps the students see the process of identifying the main idea.

Bubble Maps

Bubble maps are a simple way for middle school students to break down the main idea and supporting details of a reading passage. You can create a bubble map template or have the students draw their own. The basic bubble map has a circle in the middle where the main idea goes. Lines are drawn out from the middle circle. At the end of each line, the students write a supporting detail for the main idea. This gives the kids a visual representation of the breakdown.

Picture Main Ideas

Using a picture to practice the main idea is an efficient review. It also works well for middle school students struggling with the concept. A picture with several details is selected from a book or magazine. The students write down what is happening in the picture. They should write the overall point of the picture, which represents its main idea. They can then write details in the picture that provide evidence of the main idea.

Create a Title

The title of an article or story often relates to its main idea. Having students come up with a title for a paragraph or story they hear is a good method of teaching the main idea. You'll want to keep the middle school students from seeing the cover of the book or title of the article. After reading it to them, the students write a title that fits the main idea of the passage. Sharing the title ideas gives students a chance to discuss their thought processes.