Last updated on: 2/27/2015 | Author:

Hunting for the Main Idea(s) – Lesson Plan Idea


Hunting for the Main Idea(s) – Overview


Use headline articles to help students learn how to highlight their assigned readings effectively by practicing how to distill main ideas from an informational text.

Grades: 7-10

The Activity


Provide each student with a copy of a recent headline article. Ask students, working individually, to find three excerpts from the article (two sentences maximum per excerpt) that expresses its main idea. After collecting the excerpts, students should compare their choices with a partner. They should discuss how they found each excerpt and why it works well, and engage in a collaborative description of their own thought processes. Bring the class back together and conduct a seminar-style discussion about the article and the excerpts chosen by the students to represent the main idea. Use the following questions to spark discussion about the merits of each excerpt:

  • What made you choose that sentence?
  • Do you think your excerpt is as good as this other one? Why or why not?
  • How does this excerpt help you state the main idea in your own words?
  • What else do you wish was in this excerpt?
  • What does this excerpt tell someone who hasn’t read the article?
  • Is the sentence a fact or an opinion? How do you know?
——————————– Topics: Any Headline Articles. See full list of headline articles.

Subjects: English / Language Arts / ELA, Writing / Composition, Communication

Common Core Anchor Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.5, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.4, CCRA.W.2

Common Core Content Standards: RI.1, RI.2, W.2, W.9, L.6, RH.2, SL.1, SL.4


Make the lesson easier 

  • Have the pairs work together for the entire activity, producing just one set of excerpts and explanations.
  • Choose a headline article covering one isolated event.

Make the lesson harder

  • Have students conduct the same exercise using one the articles sourced by the headline article that provides longer and more in-depth coverage of the same issue.
  • Have students go through the same thought description process with three excerpts that are NOT main ideas, but rather details in the article.
Related Links


  1. Lesson Plan Ideas with Common Core Correlations
  2. Teachers’ Corner