16 Strategies to Help Students Who Have Trouble Finding the Main Idea and Topic Sentence

Are you looking for strategies to help students who have trouble finding the main idea and topic sentence? If so, keep reading.

1. Make sure the learner knows that the first sentence of a paragraph should always be considered as a possible topic sentence and main idea.

2. Make sure the learner knows that a topic sentence or main idea for a paragraph will always contain one or more of the following, that will be the whole idea of the paragraph: Who, What, Where, On occasions where, How.

3. Make sure the learner knows that the topic sentence or main idea can be determined by choosing the one sentence in a paragraph that makes sense when it stands alone (e.g., in the process of elimination, isolate each sentence and decide if it tells what the whole paragraph is about).

4. Get the learner to write a paragraph about a favorite topic and use a triangle to ascertain the hierarchy of sentences: (1) Most essential (theme), (2) Most essential detail, (3) Less essential detail, and ( 4) Incidental detail (e.g., could be left out without changing the paragraph meaning).

5. Get the learner to use the “satellite system” to find the main idea of a paragraph. The learner should select the one word or phrase around which the entire paragraph is built. Then the learner should name the other details that describe that word or phrase. This allows the learner to focus on the subject to spot the main idea.

6. Praise the learner for identifying the topic sentence and/or the main idea: (a) give the learner a concrete reward (e.g., privileges such as leading the line, handing out learning materials, 10 minutes of free time, etc.) or (b) give the learner an informal reward (e.g., praise, handshake, smile, etc.).

7. Converse with the learner to explain (a) what the learner is doing wrong and (b) what the learner should be doing.

8. Draft an agreement with the learner stipulating what behavior is required and which reinforcement will be implemented when the agreement has been met.

9. Get the learner to question any directions, explanations, and instructions not grasped.

10. Connect with parents to disseminate information about the learner’s progress. The parents may reinforce the learner at home for correctly identifying topic sentences at school.

11. Assess the appropriateness of the task to ascertain (a) if the task is too complicated and (b) if the duration of time scheduled to finish the task is sufficient.

12. Select a peer to model identifying topic sentences for the learner and also to assist the learner with instructions, etc.

13. Indicate what is to be done for the conclusion of the task (e.g., indicate definite starting and stopping points, indicate a minimum requirement, etc.).

14. Consider using AI to teach reading comprehension.

15. Consider using Alexa to teach reading skills.

16. Try using one of our many apps designed to teach literacy skills and help students with reading issues:

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