Before kids understand the concept, as well as the importance and pervasiveness of a main idea and its supporting details, a few things may happen:
it may be difficult to understand the point of their explanations and stories (ever heard one of those rambling stories?!)
they may have a hard time noticing the "big ideas" in the information they encounter (be it in oral language, fiction and non-fiction texts, visual information, etc.)
and their writing may be pretty disorganized.
It's no wonder the concept of a main idea (sometimes called central idea) and supporting details is a prominent fixture in ELA learning standards.
I want to take just a moment to point out that "main idea and supporting details" is academic terminology or "lingo". School has lots of very school-specific lingo. You may have kids that understand the concept just fine, but just don't know that it's called a "main idea and details", or "central idea and supporting details" in school! So, as you tackle this skill with your students, make sure you're aware of this dynamic.
In addition, try to use the same terminology as kids are learning in your classrooms; if you're talking about main ideas but the classroom teacher is calling it a central idea, make sure your students know this is the same thing!
How to teach main idea and details in speech therapy
If you've got students on your speech therapy caseload that need help recognizing, labeling, and generating main ideas and supporting details, here are a few tried-and-tested activities to get you started:
1. Teach the concept of main idea and details with pictures first
For kiddos who are starting from the very beginning, meaning they really don't have the concept of a main idea and details at all, I actually like to use a less language-heavy strategy: pictures.
I always use the StoryWhys graphic organizer for main idea and details because consistent use of the same visual illustrates for kids that this is a common and predictable pattern for information. You can download a blank version of all of the StoryWhys graphic organizers in one resource here. You can always adapt the graphic organizers for your needs as well; if there are only two supporting details, cross out a box. If there are more than three, add more boxes.
You can find some busy pictures for this task on this Pinterest page I created.
2. Teach about main ideas and details in stories with StoryWhys book companions
The StoryWhys Spotlight Series on Main Idea and Details make targeting this concept in speech therapy while using high-quality storybooks easy and fun. Get them here.
Main idea and details sections are also always included in the StoryWhys Comprehensive Book Companions for Speech Therapy.
3. Use main idea and details graphic organizers for writing
I had a dyad with a couple of third graders on Friday afternoons a while back. Because it was Friday, both girls needed to write a paragraph about one thing they had enjoyed that week in school for the weekly classroom newsletter. Both students had difficulties organizing their thoughts, let alone writing them. We used a StoryWhys main idea and details graphic organizer to get their ideas down first. After that, the writing was much easier and their anecdotes were much easier for parents to understand!
LEVEL UP YOUR SPEECH THERAPY ACTIVITIES WITH STORYWHYS
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Have you heard? StoryWhys now offers the Speech and Spell series of resources. I am always trying to tie articulation work and spelling together in my therapy and I've never found any good resources out there to help me do this. So I made my own! Many more speech sounds and spelling rules to come. They'll be 50% off for 48 hrs when new resources are added to the StoryWhys store. Find them here.
Did you know book companions can be among the best speech therapy materials for elementary students? Explore all of the StoryWhys book companions for speech therapy in my store. You'll find comprehensive book companions that target many different language skills or Spotlight Series book companions that focus on one type of skill, all using high-quality, beloved storybooks.
And get your FREE, 71-page book companion for speech therapy on the Special Offers page.