Teaching Topic vs. Main Idea

Do you cringe when you start planning your nonfiction read unit because you dread teaching subject vs. independent mind ? You aren ’ t entirely ! This region of a nonfiction unit can be challenging for elementary students ! year after year, I had students contend with finding the subject and main idea of a nonfiction text. In this post, I wanted to plowshare some promptly tips for teaching the difference between topic and chief mind. Be certain to read all the manner through for a freebie !

What Went Wrong

When I first started teaching fourth grade, I would introduce topic and main mind and the students would seem to get it, but then they would go backward when they tried it on their own. They could normally identify the topic of the informational text. Where they had trouble was telling me the main idea about that topic that the generator was trying to communicate .
so for exemplar, if they read a foliate about cats, they could tell me the subject was cats. And then I ’ d ask what the main idea was and they would say “ cats. ” Or “ stuff about cats. ” Or “ it was about cats. ” But they weren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate telling me WHAT about cats the writer wanted them to know .
On the other hand, sometimes I ’ d have a scholar who went excessively specific or besides broad. He/she would latch on to good one bantam detail from the text or give me a whole drumhead of everything he/she had read.

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Has this happened to you ? ! I figured out pretty quickly that my kiddos truly needed scaffolded exercise with the concept of subject vs. chief theme to understand what these terms truly mean .
Topic vs main idea can be challenging for upper elementary students! Click through for some tips to make teaching topic and main idea easier in your reading workshop - and to grab a free graphic organizer!

The Difference between Topic and Main Idea

here ’ s the bare bones of what I wanted students to learn :

  • The topic is the subject of the text. It’s short and we can say it with just a word or simple phrase. It’s general.
  • The main idea is what the author wants you to know about the topic. It’s a complete sentence that includes a whole idea. It’s the big takeaway that you learned from reading. It’s more specific.

A beneficial means to model this is with a ocular. A little gluey note will fit a topic and an index card can fit a whole main estimate .

Activities to Teach Topic vs. Main Idea

so how do you get students to understand the deviation ? What worked for me was doing lots of differentiate activities. We started by looking at topic and main mind examples to see their format ( one or two words for a topic compared to a solid sentence for the chief idea ). together, we created topic five main idea definitions and examples on anchor charts. We besides sorted topics and independent idea examples and matched examples to short nonfiction paragraph.

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They ’ vitamin d begin to see that they could credibly tell person the subject of a nonfiction textbook without having to read it. Clues like the drift or title, pictures, and bluff print give it away. But they couldn ’ thyroxine tell person the independent theme unless they actually read the text .
It wasn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate until they truly got the deviation between these two terms that we would rehearse reading short informational text and identifying their topics and main ideas ( and supporting details ). Everything depended on them first understanding what information I was looking for when I asked for the topic or chief theme .
One manner to reinforce the deviation between subject and chief idea is by using a simple graphic organizer. This is a big way to give them ocular reminders that the subject is shortstop ( a elementary give voice or phrase ) and the chief idea is longer ( a complete sentence ). It works nicely with any nonfiction text. Grab the graphic organizer below for absolve !
Teaching topic and main idea is easier with this free graphic organizer! You can besides differentiate for students who need more patronize by giving them the subject and independent idea and having them label what each is ( rather of coming up with them on their own ).

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I besides like to give students respective short text that are all about the lapp subject but have very unlike main ideas. That ’ s another good manner to reinforce that we need to read the text and name out what the author wants us to learn. You can besides carry this idea over to writing workshop. Ask your students to all write about the same subject and then comparing their pieces to see how each writer came up with his/her own chief theme about it. ( P.S. I love using The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown as a mentor text. )
Lots of denotative, differentiated practice with topic vs. main mind was what actually made the deviation in my classroom. I hope you ’ ve found a few tips to help you reach those students who struggle with this skill as you teach nonfiction ! Leave me a note in the comments if you have other strategies that you love !