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What is a main idea • The main idea of a story is the main point the author is trying to make. • When you identify the main idea of the story you will know what the story is about.
Topic Sentences • In some cases such as in paragraphs or short passages, the main idea can be found in the topic sentence. • The topic sentence is a statement that is supported by most or all of the other information in the paragraph or passage. Example: Americans love to send greeting cards. For instance, over 4 million birthday cards are sent out in this country every day. Around Valentine’s Day last year, over 900 million cards were mailed. And close to 3 billion holiday greeting cards were sent out during the Christmas season. Which of the sentences in the above paragraph expresses the main idea? Americans love to send greeting cards This statement shows what the whole passage is about. If you look at the other sentences you will read about the types of cards Americans send, and how many they send each year. All the sentences support the main idea.
Main Ideas Example: The following is the main idea from Tommy Tales Book #1, page 3: One day, Tommy was playing with his friend Lucy. Taffy ran to them. He had found a TV remote control. It was not an ordinary remote control. It was purple with red stripes. What is the main idea of this paragraph? The main idea is the TV remote control that Taffy found. You know it is the main idea because most of the sentences deal with the remote control.
How to find the Main Idea(s)? • Finding the main ideas in a paragraph or text can be done in two steps: • Find the topic of the paragraph or text. • If the paragraph or text has a topic sentence then that will be the main idea. If it does not have a topic sentence, read each sentence to see what is being talked about. If you can identify the main idea, make sure all the sentences support the main idea.
Main Ideas Example: Several remedies for too much sun can be made in your own kitchen. For instance, you can soothe a case of sunburn by spreading plain yogurt over the burned area for ten minutes. Or you can sit in a cool bath water to which you have added a cup of vinegar or baking soda. If your eyes have been irritated by the sun, cover them for five minutes with chilled tea bags or cotton soaked in milk. What is the topic? Remedies for too much sun You know this is the topic because all the ideas in the paragraph relate together. What is the main idea? Several remedies for to much sun can be made in your own kitchen. This is the main idea because all the sentences discuss remedies from your kitchen that can help when someone is exposed to the sun.
Main Ideas Example: Look at page 6 and 7 in Tommy Tales Book #1. What is the main idea? Main Idea: The clicker made Tommy’s friends disappear and he was trying to press the buttons to find his friends. How do you know this is the main idea? Read all the sentences on pages 6 and 7, and see if they support the main idea.
References Broderick, Bill (2000). Groundwork For College Reading. New Jersey: Townsend Press.