10 Steps to the Main Idea


Tip: Ten Steps to The Main Idea

How do I do it?
Finding the theme or main idea of a story can be a challenge for language learners and can require significant support.  The following process will help language learners determine the theme or main idea of a piece of literature and identify the details that support that theme or main idea.
    Step 1: Preview the text. Look at the cover and any pictures.  Read the title.  What are key words?  What do you think the text will be about?  What will happen?
    Step 2: Preview key vocabulary.  Choose 5-10 words you don’t know.  What do they mean?  Write them down or talk about them.
    Step 3: Read the text.  (With the teacher, a partner, or in a literature circle.)  
    Step 4: Reread the text.  
    Step 5. Look for repetition.  What words are repeated?
    Step 6. What was the problem?
    Step 7. What was the solution?
    Step 8. Finish these sentences about the story: “First,...”  “In the middle,...” “Finally,...”
    Step 9. Finish one of these sentences: “This story reminds me...” “This story is about...”
    Step 10. Look over your answers to steps 1-9.  What is the story mostly about?  Finish this sentence: “The main idea is...”

Continue around the circle until ideas are exhausted or time is up.

Variations & Extensions
For students who may not need as much support, shorten the process by omitting steps or exempting particular students from steps.  Students can work in pairs.  After students finish their steps have them compare with a partner or in a triad to refine and support their statements with evidence.

Download the 10 Steps Worksheet with space for writing answers and recording details from the text.

Common Core ELA Reading Standard 2
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen
Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen


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