Exploring Main Idea: Some Quick Ideas for Centers
After a while teaching about main idea, it probably has about as much luster as a pencil eraser. If you're like me, you've taught about main idea through whole group lessons, read alouds, shared reading, group work, partner work, etc. Yet I still feel like I want to drive the point home even more ... after all, determining the main idea and supporting details of a text is one of the most highly covered skills on the state reading exam. So, what can I do to put the spring back into our readers workshop's step? Enter main idea centers.
This is hardly a definitive list of ideas. This just quickly sketches out the four centers I'm putting into action in my classroom for about a week. Each day, students will visit one center for 30 minutes to complete the center activity. After four days, they will have rotated through all four centers. I'll send students to revisit some of the center activities later on, if I feel that they need a review.
My Four Centers
Thankfully, I have a lot of help in my classroom. With my wonderful paraprofessional and my student teacher, I can have an adult at each center except for the computer center. However, I structured these activities so that they should be able to work fairly well with only a single teacher in the room. I've come to learn never to rely on outside help ... just in case. You'll notice that these centers are really simple to set up on my part. I didn't have to make any file folder games or go crazy thinking up activities. I find that simpler is often better, and I'm trying to make sure that I work "smart," rather than just hard at this point.
1) Computer center -- click on this link to read about the web-quest style activities I have planned for my students.
2) Board Game Center -- I have a main idea board game from Lakeshore that I'm putting to use. Super simple!
3) Guided Learning Center -- This is simply a time when a small group of the children will work with me on the Main Idea skill. I'll have a variety of texts on hand so I can provide scaffolding or enrichment for the various groups. This way I'll definitely be able to get in at least 30 minutes of small group time with every student about this skill. By the end of the week, I'll know who needs further remediation, and I should feel comfortable moving on with the rest of my students.
4) "Extra, Extra, Read All About It" Center -- I've attached the student directions for download here which explain the activity quite clearly. Basically, all I need to do is gather a file folder of various magazines (Time for Kids, Weekly Reader, etc,), a stack of construction paper, and a bin with tape, scissors, and markers. The students will choose an article, cut it out, tape it to the construction paper, and then create a web to figure out the main idea. I'll leave copies of the student instructions and one model at the table with this center, and the students will be ready to work independently. Check out the downloadable instructions for the details.
Main Idea Worksheets
Here are some main idea worksheets I made up to serve as homework or extensions for use in class. Feel free to download and use them.