Main Idea of a Story Teaching Tips

When thinking about the main idea of a story, students may think it will be an easy standard to learn. As the term states, the main idea should be pretty straightforward. However, this is absolutely not always the case! It can actually be tricky to find the main idea of a story. Therefore, it is important to have many different passages and stories for your students to use to practice. Additionally, students will love getting to read different stories! 

What is the main idea of a story?

The main idea is the point of a story. It is what the author is communicating to readers about the selected topic. In another way, the main idea is the overall thought or summary of what the story is about. In other words, the main idea is the key thought about the topic. Therefore, it may help to review how to look for the topic and then expand on what is being explained. Additionally, it may help to explain the definition in a few ways to make sense for all students! 

How to Find the Main Idea of a Story 

As with many aspects, there is no one set way to find the main idea of a story. Furthermore, teaching different techniques will help all students find the way that works best for them! While the first step is often teaching the main idea of a story definition, there are so many options to use as practice. Since the theme and main idea often get confused, you might also like my blog post with helpful ideas for teaching the theme of a story

main idea of the story

Placement in Story

Often, the main idea of a story involves looking at the first or last sentence. Specifically, it may be in the first sentence of a short story. However, if it is a multi-paragraph story, the main idea may be in the last sentence of the first paragraph. However, it will be important to tell students that this is not always the case. Therefore, it is important to truly read the passage and use one of the other strategies listed below. 


Often, the main idea is repeated throughout a paragraph or story. Hence, it will be helpful to teach students to look for repeated words or phrases. Additionally, students can use a highlighter to highlight repeated words. If they still struggle, it will be helpful to remind them to go back and look at what words they highlighted. The highlight suggestion will also provide important information to the teacher when helping students. If students have all different words highlighted, this will show they need help to track repeated words. 

Matching Activities

Students often have so much fun with matching activities! With matching, students can receive two items: main ideas and small passages. Then, students can work in groups to match the main idea to the correct passage. Students will have a blast working with a group to match the story to the correct main idea. Even better, this is an incredible way to help students when first learning how to find the main idea of a story. These main idea of story example cards could help provide great support to your students while learning this skill. 


Some students are visual learners. Although, this technique can really work wonders for all students! To incorporate visualization, students will draw or be given the shape of a tree. Then, they will write the main idea of the story on the trunk. Next, they will create branches with details that support the main idea. Thus, this is a great way to ensure students know how to support their selection of the main idea! It is also a great way to turn main idea of a story worksheets into an engaging, creative format. 

Task Cards

In the classroom, students always love task cards! Therefore, Main Idea Task Cards are the perfect resource to use. First, everything is prepared to be used immediately with a paper or digital version. Second, there are 24 total task cards! There are 12 task cards with images. Additionally, there are 12 task cards with nonfiction passages with growth mindset concepts. Therefore, students will be able to see a positive message while reading about an important concept. Third, there are two options for answer sheets to help differentiate the lesson. Students may use the multiple-choice sheet or the open-ended answer sheet. There may even be a combination of options used based on the students and their needs! Lastly, there is even an extension answer sheet where students create a title for each image or passage! Due to all of these aspects, this unit is filled with differentiation! 

main idea of the story

The main idea may sound simple, but it is actually a complex skill to learn! Students will need time, support, and differentiation in order to truly understand how to find the main idea. After learning the definition of the main idea of a story, students will progress to a variety of activities. Whether using the placement technique or the Main Idea Task Cards, students will love practicing this skill! 

If you do not want to miss any of the upcoming lessons, join my email list to be notified of all the interactive lessons coming up! By joining Kirsten’s Kaboodle, you will also receive freebies for blog exclusive subscribers! This link will even provide a free point of view activity for second and third grades. 

I am Kirsten Tulsian, an elementary educator with 18 years of experience as a teacher and counselor. My passion lies in empowering students to discover their inherent brilliance through the use of engaging, rigorous, and meaningful activities. I look forward to connecting with you!

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