Finding the main idea of a passage is critical for upper elementary. My third grade students and I have been hard at work using a reusable anchor chart to help us decide the main idea of a passage.

Main Idea Anchor Chart with text "What was the WHOLE thing about?"

Create a Reusable Anchor Chart

I created this anchor chart (which isn’t something I enjoy 😬…I hate my own handwriting) with a specific purpose. I wanted to have something that could be laminated and used over and over throughout the year. 
Using a dry erase marker, we’ll be able to recycle the anchor chart as we read through many passages throughout the school year.
Main Idea Anchor Chart with text "What was the WHOLE thing about?" and "Keywords"

Determine Key Words

After reading a passage from our leveled reader, we choose a handful of keywords that would tell us about the WHOLE thing. These words might be about a person, place, thing, idea, animal, topic, or something we learned. We also look for words that were used more than two times. 
Main Idea Anchor Chart with text "What was the WHOLE thing about?" and "Keywords" and "Main Idea"

Write a Main Idea Statement

After we brainstorm keywords, we begin to see if we can use some of the words in a sentence that tells what the whole thing was about. If we can use ALL of them, that’s even better. 
This part has taken a LOOOOOOOOTTTTT of practice! Forming sentences is really hard for my special education students–using “big” words makes it even harder. 
Student holding a clipboard with mini main idea anchor chart

Mini Student Anchor Charts

We’ve been working on this for WEEKS! I finally felt like it was time to start making this a little more independent. Together, we brainstormed keywords and my students recorded them on their own mini anchor chart. 
Students using a textbook to fill in their main idea mini anchor charts

Main Idea Statements

I couldn’t wait to see what sentences they generated using their keywords. These two students came up with:
“Animals camouflage from [their prey].”
“Animals hid from [their prey].” 
I snapped this picture a little early and their sentences weren’t quite finished! Either way, these sentences are SPOT ON when it comes to describing the passage that we had read, which shared several examples of how animals hide from their prey in their habitat.  
Click here to get your FREE main idea mini anchor chart
Want to grab this mini anchor chart? Click the image above or click here to download it!