Main Idea

Reading Comprehension



This song teaches students how to identify the subject, main idea and details of a passage. The unit also provides examples and offers an opportunity for practice.



Alright, class. I know you’re ready for the weekend. (Ya!) Don’t forget about your five-page paper. (No!) Make sure that you express your main idea and back it up.

Listen up,
Lend me an ear,
The hot new thing is the main idea.
Supported by the details to keep it all clear,
The main idea’s the reason that we’re all here.
Yeah, come on.


Have you ever read something and when you got to the end,
You didn't get the point, nope, you didn't understand?
Well let me break it down for the next time you read,
There’s gonna be three basic things you’ll see:
The subject, main idea and the details,
Sort of like a city, the house, the people.
Subject is the broad thing that it’s about,
The main idea? (What’s that now?)
It’s the main thing the writer wants to say,
It’s the central point. You get it? OK?
You can often find it in the first couple lines,
But it could be anywhere, so go find it.
It’s supported by specific details,
The facts in the sentences, be real —
They should add up to make the main idea, kid,
They form up like cheerleaders in a pyramid.
Like I just read an article called “Bear Facts,”
And it talked about how they could be brown or black,
Polar or grizzly or another type,
They're all good hunters and they know how to fight.
‘Cause they have big paws so they can catch fish,
And big sharp teeth that they eat with.
And if they wanna climb a tree to find something to eat,
Their super sharp claws are all that they need.
See? Now let’s break it down,
I mean let’s dig deeper in the article I found.
What's the subject? (Bears!)
And what would be the main idea they had there?
(That bears are good hunters. That's most important!)
And how about the details they had to support it?
(They have large teeth, paws and claws!)
And that's how you know hunting is a bear’s job.

Listen up,
Lend me an ear,
The hot new thing is the main idea.
Supported by the details to keep it all clear,
The main idea’s the reason that we’re all here.
Yeah, come on.


I just read a story about a boy named Ben
On the first day of school (Well what happened then?)
Ben clutched his new backpack and walked in
With a big smile when he saw his old friends.
Tried to play it cool when he saw his old crush,
But when she was close, his mind turned to mush.
He liked his art teacher, that class was real fun,
Ben was so worked up that he could hardly eat lunch.
Now what's the subject? (Ben’s first day of school!)
And what's the main idea? What's the author wanna prove?
(Ben’s first day of school was exciting!)
And details to back that up? Where are they hiding?
(When Ben saw his old friends he was psyched,
And he was nervous around the girl that he liked!)
He even had a backpack that was brand new
Now I get the main idea. Can you?

Almost everything that you read will have a subject, main idea and details. It may help to imagine these characteristics as big, medium and small.

Subject : It's big and broad. It's the general topic. Imagine it as an entire city.

Main idea : It's the author's main point, what she's trying to prove. Imagine it as a neighborhood within the big city.

Details : These explain or support the main idea. They're smaller and more specific. Imagine them as people living in the neighborhood, which is in the city.


The subject of a book is big and broad. Try asking yourself, "What is this book about?" and answering in one to three words. Here are some examples:

The Amazing Spider-Man is a comic book. The subject is a superhero named Spiderman.

Walt Whitman: Words for America is a biography on the poet Walt Whitman. The subject is Walt Whitman's life.

The main idea is more specific than the subject. It gives us a little more information. Try asking yourself, "What is the author saying?" or "What is the most important thing I walk away with?" Remember, the main idea is not your opinion; it's the author's. Here are some examples:

The Amazing Spider-Man
What it is : A comic book
Subject : A superhero named Spider-Man
Main idea : Spider-Man is a brave superhero who fights crime.

Walt Whitman: Words for America
What it is : A biography about the poet Walt Whitman
Subject : Walt Whitman's life
Main idea : Walt Whitman's poetry was inspired by his time in the military.

The details are the most specific of all. They support the main idea. They often include descriptions about places, people or things. Here are some examples:

The Amazing Spider-Man
What it is: A comic book
Subject: A superhero named Spider-Man
Main idea: Spider-Man is a brave superhero who fights crime.
Details: Spider-Man has superpowers, including “spider-sense” and “web-shooters,” which fling a sticky web from his wrists and allow him to stick to different surfaces.

Walt Whitman: Words for America
What it is: A biography about the poet Walt Whitman
Subject: Walt Whitman's life
Main idea: Walt Whitman's poetry was inspired by his time in the military.
Details: Walt Whitman was a nurse during the Civil War. He took care of soldiers from both sides, the Union and the Confederacy. These experiences inspired much of his poetry.

Another word you might hear when talking about main idea is “theme.” A theme is similar to a moral or lesson. Books that are strictly informative, like textbooks or encyclopedias, will probably not have a theme. Novels, poems and other texts often do have one. Some examples of themes include friendship, courage, coming of age, good versus evil, love, freedom and many others.

Here are some examples:

The Amazing Spider-Man
What it is : A comic book
Subject : A superhero named Spider-Man
Main idea : Spider-Man is a brave superhero who fights crime.
Details : Spider-Man has superpowers, including “spider-sense” and “web-shooters,” which fling a sticky web from his wrists and allow him to stick to different surfaces.
Theme : Good versus evil

Walt Whitman: Words for America
What it is : A biography about the poet Walt Whitman
Subject : Walt Whitman's life
Main idea : Walt Whitman's poetry was inspired by his time in the military.
Details : Walt Whitman was a nurse during the Civil War. He took care of soldiers from both sides, the Union and the Confederacy. These experiences inspired much of his poetry.
Theme : Life & Death
Where is the main idea most often found?
In the first couple of lines of the first paragraph
What are the facts in a sentence called?
Details
The speaker describes facts forming up like cheerleaders in a _________.
Pyramid
Which 3 details support the main idea that bears are good hunters?
They have large teeth, paws and claws.
Which teacher did Ben like on his first day of school?
His art teacher
Who was Ben nervous around?
A girl that he liked
What's the main idea of the story about Ben?
Ben's first day of school was exciting

Tests and answer keys are only available for paid subscribers.


Click below to sign up for a digital subscription.


Start your free trial.

Copyright ©2014 FlocabularyTerms|Privacy Policy|Credits