Strike out less important words: When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, he is unlikely to have foreseen how significant this invention would be in today’s times. The printing press increased the speed at which books could be copied because instead of having to copy printed material by hand, whole pages of text could be printed at one time. Today, layouts for pages are done on the computer and copiers are able to print hundreds of papers per minute. Without such easy access to printed material, our lives would be dramatically different.
Once these words have been eliminated, begin a discussion on the remaining words. Note the words that are used most often. Determine what the paragraph is mostly about and write this as the main idea. The other facts that are important explanations or elaborations are supporting details.
Strategies to Achieve Reading Success (STARS) Strategy 1 (pages 4-11) focuses on main idea and supporting details and has sample selections that can be used for instruction. Focus on Understanding Main Idea and Details has selections with main idea and supporting details comprehension questions that follow.
Instruction can also be provided on how to check the main idea of a paragraph or selection using Microsoft Word’s AutoSummarize function using the following steps.
On the Tools menu, click AutoSummarize.
Select the type of summary you want.
In the Percent of original box, type or select the level of detail to include in the summary. Select a higher percentage of the original document to include more detail.
If you don't want AutoSummarize to replace your existing keywords and comments on the Summary tab in the Properties dialog box (File menu), clear the Update document statistics check box.
*Directions taken from Microsoft Word help
After teaching lessons on main idea and finding details I would then apply and extend lessons on Summarizing. The following lesson plan is on Summarizing with Struggling Readers.