Lesson: Listening for a Main Idea

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Lesson Objective

Students will be able to discern the main idea/main point from a series of spoken acts.

Lesson Plan


1.  Start the lesson by telling students that you have something very important to tell them. So important, that you have to shut the door- close the windows and make sure no one else is listening.  (Do whatever you need to create a sense of immediacy/urgency).

2. Ask students if they have ever had to listened to very important information. Maybe mom telling them who would pick them up from school or their teacher explaining a classroom project. Ask them for examples of how they listen to important information.

   Solicit responses like ‘I listen quietly’, ‘I pay attention to what the person is saying’. Once you have established a norm for how you will listen for information, invited them to listen to your story.

3. After the room is ‘secured’ tell students your special news. For example tell them how afterschool today you are going to look for a brand new puppy. Describe the dog, floppy ears, wagging tail, color… but all the while emphasizing the importance that TODAY is the day that you will get your new dog.

4. After your story is over- tell them that you are just so excited about your afternoon, that you got carried away. Ask someone to tell you what the most important part your story was. (Accept all answers)

              As the responses pour in, make sure to capture them on chart paper or a white board.

4. When all the answers are on the board, examine them and ask the students to decide collectively which suggestions tell what the whole story was about. Circle those choices.

5. Re-read the choices that your class decided best talk about what the story was about. Tell them, that in reading and writing we call these ‘Main Ideas’. Tell them that a Main Idea: Is the basic point of a story. The main idea is point the author is making about the topic.


Checks for Understanding

1. Asking students how it is they listen for important information.

2. Asking students to provide a re-tell of your story.

3. Discerning, with class help, which suggestions capture the main point of the story and which are extra pieces of information.


Guided Practice

1. As we transition to guided practice I will tell students that they will each get a chance to practice picking out the main idea from information that they will listen to.

2. Divide the students into two groups by having the kids count themselves off as a 1 or a 2. (I used random selection for this, since it is a literacy activity that does not involve direct reading/reading skills).  Once the students are put into pairs I tell the students that they are going to work together to listen to a story, and then tell their other group member the main idea of the story.

4. Take all the ‘1’s to the back of the room and explain to them that they are going to listen to a story.  (I usually have a recording of a story that I play on my listening center, but it works just as a well to have a student helper read a passage to the group). This group will listen to the story and then discuss the story with their group. They will then decide on what the main parts of the story are.

5. While the ‘1’s group is listening to the story, the ‘2’s are up front with me. We are revisiting the suggestions and idea that the students gave me about the story I told about my dog. We are talking about which suggestions summarize the story and how the other suggestions help the story.

   ***This is a great place to start talking about details and the role they play in story development****

6. After the ‘1’s are done listening to story and discussing (I set a timer) I join the two groups together. I tell the 1s that they will have 30 seconds to tell the 2s the main idea of the story they just heard.

7. When this exchange is done, I rotate the groups. Now the ‘2s’ listen to a story , either at the listening center or read by another student. During this time I work with the ‘1’s. We are revisiting the suggestions and ideas that the students gave me about the story I told about my dog. We are talking about which suggestions summarize the story and how the other suggestions help the story.

8. With the class back together we work to create a working definition of main idea, and discuss ways to find it.


Checks for Understanding

1. Working with the small group examining the suggestions that students gave about the story I told at the start of the lesson.

2. Giving students the opportunity to listen to an orally story, develop an understanding of the main idea, and then share that main idea with their partners.


Independent Practice

Students will return to their desks and listen to a recording or reading of a short text/poem. After listening to the story the students will write down what they have determined is the main idea of the passage.


Exit Ticket/Assessment

See above.



To make this lesson more relevant to kids and also being to introduce important themes such as authors purpose it would be interesting to use television/radio commercials as the audio text.


Potential Misunderstandings

1.     Students may confuse the notion of a main idea with that of a summary.

2.     Students may not understand that a main idea should encompass the basic point of the story.







Lesson Resources

Lesson Plan   Lesson Plan
Listening Passage for Group 1   Activity
Listening Passage for Group 2   Classwork


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