5th Grade - Identifying Main Ideas And Evidence

Reading and Comprehension
Identifying main ideas and evidence
Discern main ideas and concepts presented in texts, identifying and assessing evidence that supports those ideas.
Be able to decide what is the point or main idea of a text and how effectively details support the main idea.

Sample Problems


True of False: Except for the main idea, all details are equally important. (false)


Are you most likely to find the topic sentence in the beginning, middle, or end of your text? (beginning)


True or False: An author should include all the details she can think of about a topic. (false)


True or False: You and your friend will use the same exact words to say the main idea of a text. (false)


What are examples of supporting details? (facts, examples that illustrate the point, reasons, etc)

Learning Tips



Topic Sentence –the words the author of a text uses to express the main idea.

Main idea- the point being made or “big idea” being expressed.

Supporting details- evidence such as examples, facts, cases, reasons, statistics, and ideas given in a text to explain and prove the main idea.

Graphic organizer- an instructional tool that puts a visual structure on the page for students fill in.

Children often get overwhelmed by text and don’t know what is important and what isn’t. Using graphic organizers can help them pick out the main idea and important supporting evidence, summarize it in their own words, and present it in an interesting visual way.

All details are not created equal, and children need to be able to find and use evidence that supports the main idea instead of distracts from it. Details that support the main idea can themselves be either more important (major) or less so (minor).


Main Idea Helping Hand

Trace the outline of your hand, fingers, and wrist on a piece of paper. Get some text you haven’t read yet, either from a textbook or magazine. Read through it, looking for the main idea, topic sentence, and supporting details. Then fill in your helping hand like so:

  • The main idea (in your own words) goes on the palm.

  • The topic sentence (the author’s words) is written on the thumb.

  • Four other details are written on the fingers.

  • Draw a bracelet around your wrist and write (in your own words) a summary sentence on it.


Kite Tales

Cut a kite out of construction paper and write the main idea on it.. Then glue a piece of yarn on for the tail. Write 3 sentences and tape or glue the "ribbons" on the tail. Share your kite with your parents, teachers, or friends!



Decide on a topic that interests you. Turn your page horizontally and draw a circle in the middle of your paper. Write your main idea in the middle. Draw more circles and connect them to the main idea to make a brainstorming web. Set your timer for five minutes and during that time write down anything related to your topic that you can think of. Give yourself the freedom to be really creative.

Once your brainstorming session is over, think about which ideas support the main idea most strongly. Then, on a clean sheet of paper, draw another web around your main idea and organize it. You don’t have to use all of the ideas you came up with during your brainstorm.


Key Chapter Concepts

Use the following graphic organizer to identify the three most important concepts (in the form of single words or phrases) from a chapter of reading. If you had to explain the reading to someone who had not read the text, what are the three most important concepts you would want them to understand? You can make notes on a scratch piece of paper as you read, and then complete the graphic organizer once you have finished the reading.

Three Key Concepts

Describe the Key Concept in Your Own Words

Explain Why the Concept is Important

How Does This Concept Relate to the Others?




Extra Help Problems


True or False: Strong details sell the main idea. (true)


True or False: Supporting details are important in both fiction and nonfiction. (true)


True or False: All of the words on the pages are important and thus should be highlighted and remembered. (false the reader must recognize what the author feels is most important and what is merely added to clarify those points)


Is the main idea always stated in the first sentence of a paragraph? (No, it usually is in the first third of the paragraph, but it might be in the last sentence or even the middle)


True or False: If the examples, reasons, statistics, studies, and facts included in the reading don’t support what you think the main idea is, you should revise the main idea you have in mind. (true).


True or False: The main idea can be expressed in many different ways. (true; you might state it using different words than another reader would)


Is the “big idea” of a text stated in the topic sentence or supporting details? (topic sentence)


What’s the difference between the topic and the main idea? (the topic is the subject under discussion while the main idea is the point that is being made about that subject)


What’s the difference between the topic sentence and the main idea? (the topic sentence is in the author’s words while the main idea can be in your own words)


True or False: The main idea is often repeated in different ways in a text. (true)


Why do we look for a main idea? (to help us focus on what is important in the text)


True or False: There is only one type of graphic organizer that will work to show the main idea and supporting details. (false)


True or False: It’s a good idea to put the main idea in your own words to make sure you understand it. (true)


True or False: All supporting details are of the same importance. (false; some are major details while others are minor)


True or False: When you brainstorm, you should only include details you know are important. (false; let your creativity flow when brainstorming!)


True or False: If you are writing a report about the seasons of the year, you should include information about spring. (true)


True or False: If you are writing a report about the number of holidays business people get each year, you should talk about how to interview for a job. (false)


True or False: If you are writing a report about the national anthem, you should include the name of the person who wrote it. (true)


True or False: If you are writing a biography about Abraham Lincoln, you should include his birth date. (true)


True or False: If you are writing a report about how to baby-proof a house, you should write about how cute babies are. (false)


Which is more important, something major or minor? (major)


True or False: A report should have a mix of both major and minor supporting details. (true)


True or False: An author of a text usually tries to hide the main idea. (false)


True or False: There is no reason to reread a text since what you understand the first time is enough. (false)


True or False: If you are writing a report on how to cook a healthy dinner, you should include specific examples of foods, such as apples or squash. (true)


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