No Series: Ms. Bannon: Finding the Main Idea (Uncut)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RL:  Reading Standards for Literature K-5
  • 3:  3rd Grade
  • 2:  Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and
    myths from diverse cultures; determine the
    central message, lesson, or moral and explain
    how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • SL:  Speaking and Listening
  • 3:  3rd Grade
  • 2:  Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Ms. Bannon: Finding the Main Idea (Uncut)

Lesson Objective: Identify and write the main idea of a story in one sentence - 26 minutes
Grade 3 / ELA / Comprehension
27 MIN
ELA.RL.3.2 | ELA.SL.3.2


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Notice how Ms. Bannon uses a personal story to hook students into the lesson and give it purpose. How does Ms. Bannon establish the concept of 'main idea' and its importance?
  2. What questions does Ms. Bannon ask to move students to a more complete statement of main idea?


  • Private message to Fayonnie Lewis

I  liked how the the teacher used personal experience to grab the students interest in the teaching and learning process. 

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  • Private message to Carol Belong

Mrs. Bannon was able to relate a real life image of a story into the lesson, the hook, to get the interest of the students. She was able to give them elements of the story that kept there attention and drew them in. This helped the students to achieve the whole point of the lesson by using the 5 W's to help. The students were then able to answer the question of what is the importance of a main idea in a story and verbally relate that back to Mrs. Bannon by the use of higher-order thinking questions.

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  • Private message to Joseph Simmons

I really liked how she used real stories that the kids related too, and was very engaging with the class which lead to alot of feed back, and used awesome techiques threw out the class.

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  • Private message to Julieanne Held

After reading the above 5 comments on this video, I believe I could get good information from it for future use! Thank you :)

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  • Private message to Gregory Harris

I like the way the Teacher handled the class. Very informative session and great strategy. Well done

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  • Full Lesson on Finding the Main Idea with Katie Bannon

    Katie Bannon: My name is Katie Bannon um I teach

    Full Lesson on Finding the Main Idea with Katie Bannon

    Katie Bannon: My name is Katie Bannon um I teach at a 3rd grade class at P.S. 110 in the lower east side of Manhattan. There are 23 students in this class and today I am going to be teaching a lesson on finding the main idea of a story as we’re reading.


    KB: Um there’s a New York state common core standards for literacy and a big part of it is being able to distinguish relevant and irrelevant facts and finding the main idea of a story. Really it’s working towards distinguishing between those facts and coming up with what are the relevant facts as you read either fiction or nonfiction books.


    KB: Okay so before we start today I have to tell you the most annoying story that happened to me yesterday. So you know how it was really warm on Monday and then yesterday it got cold again? So I was getting ready to go to the gym and I have this really baggy sweater that I like to wear to the gym because I don’t care if it gets like messed up and I throw it in a ball once I get there but I needed something really warm to put on. So I’m reaching high high up in my closet and I grab the sweater down and I pull,I see like this loose thread off of my sweater. I was like ugh, that’s annoying, so I start pulling it – can anyone guess what happened? I tell you, I was so frustrated. Miracle?

    Student: There was like a big hole in it?

    KB: More than that. More than just a big hole. Daysia?

    Student: It kind of fell apart?

    KB: My whole sweater fell apart, it just unraveled. I pulled one thread and it was just like “brrrr” all on the floor. This is my favorite going to the gym, casual sweater. So then I was so annoyed, and I was like ‘You know what, I’m not even going to the gym.’ So I jumped on my couch, I took out this book I’m reading, which is awesome by the way, and I’m reading this awesome part about these kids who are in the back of like a Uhaul, have you guys ever seen ever those moving vans that you put all of your stuff in when you’re moving and you connect them to the back of your car?

    Student: Oh yeah, mmm-hmm.

    KB: So they’re in the back of this moving van because they didn’t want to sit in the car and they were having this fun adventure, but then the latch broke, and the door like swung up so they were in the back of this moving van without the door, and they were like hanging on like this, trying not to fly out the back of the moving van. So it was this super exciting part. So I’m reading it, I couldn’t be more excited, and Eric comes home, and he was like, “I thought you were going to the gym.” And I was like you know what, I can’t even talk about that, but let me tell you about this part of the book I’m reading. So I’m telling him these kids are going on a ride with their parents, and all of a sudden they get really scared because they’re sitting there and they’re trying not to fall out, and it was amazing. And he’s staring at me completely blank, like, has no idea why I’m telling him such an exciting story. Does anyone know why? If all I told him about this book was these kids were going for a ride on their parents, and they’re holding on, and they’re trying not to fall out? What is he picturing in his mind from what I told him? Does he see that Uhaul in his mind? What is he picturing? May?

    Student: Kids falling out of somewhere.

    KB: Of somewhere. But where does he think they are if I just said they’re going for a ride with their parents? Where would you automatically think the kids are if they’re going for a ride with their parents? Alex?

    Student: In a car.

    KB: In a car! I left out that whole part, that whole main idea that they were actually in a Uhaul with no back on it, and it changed the entire story. Eric had no clue what I was talking about and it didn’t seem exciting or interesting to him at all. And then I started thinking, kind of like that sweater, if you rip out one piece and the whole thing falls apart, if you take out that main idea, the entire story falls apart. It didn’t make sense anymore. So then I started thinking, this is something that’s so important, and I want to work with my class on it tomorrow. I want to talk about, what is a main idea, and really focus on that, and really think of what is this huge part of the story that if I’m explaining it to someone, I really want to add it in so they know what I’m talking about. So who can tell me in their own words, what do you think a main idea is? Based on what I was just talking about, how can we describe what is a main idea, and I’m going to write our thoughts down. Jaylene?

    Student: Um, maybe it’s like something like that’s really important of something that you’re retelling and you really need to put that part in.

    KB: I’m gonna stop you right there because I like the first thing that you said. It’s something – I’m gonna have to stand up – a main idea is something really important in what you’re reading, is that what you said?

    Student: Uh-huh.

    KB: Excellent. Who else can describe what they think a main idea is? Daysia?

    Student: I agree, like, it’s the main picture that you take in your mind about the story.

    KB: Okay, so the main – so I’m going to change that word main maybe to major, is that okay?

    Student: Yeah.

    KB: So the major picture you make in your mind, I love that, and that goes along with our visualizing.


    KB: Let’s go back to my story that I was reading. If it wasn’t about the Uhaul, if they just, the author of the book wanted to just tell me they were going for a ride, would they have included that whole Uhaul scene into it and that adventure? What do you think, would the author have included that whole part in? So let’s think about why an author puts in a main idea. Alex?

    Student: To make it sound interesting and fun.

    KB: Okay, so maybe it’s like the most interesting part as well, and it’s the thing that we really focus on the most? Okay, so maybe it’s the most interesting part to focus on, and Emily, last one.

    Student: Um, that’s it’s almost like the most important and interesting part of the story?

    KB: Yeah, the most important and interesting part, so that kind of goes along with these two, right? And I also think that I’m gonna add on it’s the part that the author really wants us to walk away with. Who can explain what I mean by that? The part that the author of the story really wants us to walk away with? I want to see some different hands. What do I mean by that, Miracle?

    Student: Maybe you just read a book and it’s still on your mind about what happened. Like in your story the kids was like hanging onto the thing, the car, the Uhaul, and that’s gonna be on your mind, like “what happens, are they gonna fall out?”

    KB: Right! Am I thinking about just them going for a ride and maybe the details of what they saw as they drove down the street? No, that’s not the main idea, those are the interesting parts that help me make that picture, but exactly what Miracle said. It’s that main part that when you finish reading it, that’s the part that sticks in your mind. So now I want to talk about why main ideas are so important to our story. So without a main idea, just like my sweater, when I told Eric that story, what happened? When I left out the main idea, what was his reaction, what happened? Samantha?

    Student: You won’t understand what they’re talking about.
    KB: He didn’t understand it, right? So without the main idea, without including that, maybe you won’t understand the story, exactly. What else maybe, if you don’t include the main idea, if you don’t think of the main idea, what could happen? Andy?

    Student: It won’t kind of be exciting.

    KB: Okay, so it won’t be exciting, but more than that. What if it’s not the most exciting story in the world? You’re onto something, and I want you to think of it. So if a story that you change the main idea, or you don’t mention the main idea, it’s not as exciting, it’s also what, it’s not…?

    Student: Not interesting?

    KB: Interesting, right? Without the main idea it won’t be as interesting because it won’t make sense, right? If you don’t understand something, are you interested in it?

    Students: No.

    KB: Don’t you kind of just say eek, that doesn’t make any sense to me, and you kind of move on? So without the main idea it won’t be as interesting. And one more thing that I was thinking is without the main idea, the story totally changes, right? Was the story that I read that I had in my mind, and the story that Eric heard and heard in his mind, were they the same story?

    Students: No.

    KB: No, they were totally different, even though I was telling him what happened, without that main idea, it wasn’t the same story that I was explaining and he was visualizing. So without the main idea, the story might change, right? So what I want us to practice now is reading a story together over the Elmo, so I’m gonna read and you’re gonna follow along, and we’re gonna try to think of what is the main idea of this story. Not what are the little details, not I’m gonna give a fab five summary of this, but I want one sentence that sums up the main idea, okay? So I’m gonna read the story once as you guys follow along and then we’re gonna think about it and after I read it a second time we’re gonna discuss. Jonathan will you get the lights please?


    KB: When you live near a lake you don’t have to go far to find excitement. It has a way of finding you. Just as twelve-year-old Caroline Higgins. Last week she had an unexpected adventure she will never forget. It all began with a hike down to the dock with her cousin Ray. She wanted to show him her family’s new canoe. Along the way Caroline had joked that she didn’t know how to hold the paddle. “Oh that’s easy,” said Ray. “Let’s get into the canoe. I can show you how.” Caroline had been eager to get her hands on the paddle. She hadn’t noticed the rising fog. She had been watching Ray so carefully that she also hadn’t noticed that the rope tying the canoe to the dock had come loose. Before she knew it, she and Ray had drifted out into the middle of the lake. “Put on your life jacket!” she yelled once she realized what had happened. By now, the fog was so sick – so thick – they couldn’t see the dock anymore. Suddenly, a dog started barking in the distance. ‘It’s Max!” shouted Caroline, excited. “Let’s paddle in that direction.” A few swift strokes later and the cousins were dockside, safe and sound. As Caroline hugged her trusty pet, she said in amazement, “Wow, I just paddled across the lake like a champ!”


    KB: Jonathan, lights please? So if we think of that story, even though it was pretty short, a lot really happened in it. There was a lot of adventure and a lot of excitement. But I don’t want to tell all of the things that happened. I want to think of just that one thing that is the most important part to us and that without it, it might change the whole story. So maybe in his case for me the main idea could be something along the lines of, let’s say, Caroline and her cousin, um, drifted out in a lake. Is that enough of a main idea? First turn and talk to your partner and share with them what you think the main idea is. The three of you join.


    KB: What are you guys coming up with?

    Student: I said that I don’t think – I think that it’s not the best main idea because -

    KB: The one I wrote?

    Student: Yeah.

    KB: So I want you to come up with your own. How would you say it?

    Student: I came up with my own. I would say that um, that Caroline and her cousin went on an amazing – an amazing adventure in the lake.

    KB: Okay, so they went on an amazing adventure in the lake. That makes it sound like it was a more exciting story than just the one I told, right? They drifted off into a lake, or they went on an amazing adventure in the lake. I like that, come up with a couple others.


    KB: Okay, three…two…one. Who can share what they think the main idea is? I heard some awesome thoughts when I was walking around. Daysia, tell me yours.

    Student: I thought that I used more interesting words. Caroline…Coraline…

    KB: Caroline, you’re right.

    Student: Caroline and her cousin had an amazing adventure in the lake.

    KB: Ooh, had an amazing adventure in the lake. I like that, that shows me where they are, who’s there, and what was happening. You summed up that main idea in one sentence, that was excellent. Alex?

    Student: That when they were in the middle of the ocean, the dog –

    KB: Were they in an ocean?

    Student: I mean the lake. That the dog barked at them and then they knew which direction to go to get back.

    KB: Okay, so the dog saved the kids in the lake.


    KB: So we’re gonna stop here and let’s read through them and let’s decide which one of these really tells u sthe entire main idea. The one that without it, the story would not at all be the same to us.


    KB: Caroline and her cousin had an amazing adventure in the lake in her family’s canoe. Give me a thumbs-up if you think that is the main idea that really describes everything that happened in the story in one sentence. Okay, thumbs down. The dog saved the kids in the lake. Give me a thumbs-up if you think that’s the entire main idea.


    KB: So it looks to me like most people agreed on this one. These two are very similar, but let me tell you why I think this one has a little more of what a main idea is. It’s because it tells me it’s Caroline and her cousin, so I know who the story is about. It tells me about their amazing adventure in the lake in her family’s canoe. So I know where this is. But this says the canoe got loose and drifted into the lake and they couldn’t find their way out. I don’t know who we’re talking about, who the story is about, right? So if we had put in maybe that we couldn’t find Caroline and her cousin, maybe that would change it, but for me, I think that this one shows the full main idea of the story.


    KB: So you guys are gonna have a chance now to work in groups and come up with your own main ideas for the story.


    KB: So we are going to be finishing The Golden Touch today. So don’t open it until you each get one. So as I’m passing it out, let’s do a quick fab five summary of what happened so far in this book. Samantha.

    Student: The stranger gave the –

    KB: Oh, that’s not the first thing that happened. Start from the beginning when we do fab five summaries.

    Student: The king liked gold.

    KB: The king liked gold. I think maybe even more than liked, right? I think the king –

    Student: He loved gold.

    KB: -- loved gold.


    Student: And then the genie came.

    KB: The genie came, right? And then what happened when the genie came? Jaylene?

    Student: He gave him the power to touch everything, to give him the golden touch so whatever he touches turns to gold.

    KB: And how did the genie feel about granting that wish? Timothy?

    Student: Sad.

    KB: Why?

    Student: Because maybe he doesn’t want every single thing to be gold.

    KB: Maybe King Midas didn’t think this wish through, right?


    KB: So what I want us to do is read to the end of page 19, okay? And we’re gonna be thinking about as we read, what is the main idea so far? And something that we didn’t talk about on here, but something that helps us come up with the main idea, is if something is repeated a lot, it’s probably a pretty important part, right? So I want us to keep in mind as we’re reading, is something happening over and over in these couple pages, and does that help us think of what is the main idea of this story? Okay, so we’re gonna read to page 19 and when you’re done, flip it over. So we’re starting on page 12, quietly to yourselves.


    KB: So what’s something that we noticed happened over and over again in this story that might help us come up with the main idea? Jonathan?

    Student: That um, whatever he touched it turned into gold like over and over again.

    KB: Everything he touched, right? Taina?

    Student: That everything that’s important to him is turning into gold.

    KB: Timothy?

    Student: He turned his daughter into a golden statue.

    KB: Yes he did.


    KB: So as of right now if we stopped reading, what would we say what is the main idea of this story? Tali?

    Student: That the king loves gold so much that he wants to touch and then everything he touches will turn to gold.

    KB: That’s what seems to be happening over and over again, right?


    KB: One two three, eyes on me!

    Students: One two, eyes on you.

    KB: So when I was on the rug I was hearing some really awesome thinking about what you’re reading, so I’m gonna come around but I wanted to give you guys a six minute warning to finish up what you’re reading and talking about your main idea. Okay, go back to it, nice job.


    Student: Um, Nicholas came up with this one called “Bella and Her Dirty Self.”

    Student: I added something in.

    KB: So that sounds like a title to me, “Bella and Her Dirty Self.”

    Student: No, I didn’t come up with that, I said something else.

    KB: So explain to me what you said.

    Student: Oh, he said Bella –

    KB: No, he can tell me.

    Student: I said Bella’s getting very dirty. That was the other thing I said before.

    KB: So Bella’s getting very dirty?

    Student: No, Bella’s getting very dirty and Molly doesn’t like that because Bella was going to go to a dog show.

    KB: Oh, okay.

    Student: And me and Tali came up with this – Molly and her amazing adventure of her dirty muddy Bella.

    KB: So what you just did, also it sounds like a title to me. But you’re not coming up with the title for this, you’re coming up with the main idea. So turn that into a sentence instead of making it sound like a title.

    Student: Molly and Bella…Bella gets dirty and Molly doesn’t like it.

    KB: Okay, so Bella gets dirty and Molly doesn’t like it.


    KB: So if we didn’t include that she was upset because Bella had a dog show, it might change the whole story. Like for me, I might think she just doesn’t want her to be dirty.

    Student: I know, that’s what I was going to say in my new sentence, I was going to say Bella goes like – Bella getting dirty and Molly not liking it because of the dog show.

    KB: Right, because if we didn’t include that dog show part, I might think she just doesn’t like it because she doesn’t want her to get mud in the house, right? Is that the same thing? Does that keep the story the same?

    Student: It changes it.

    KB: It changes it, so I think that’s a really important part to add in the main idea, so come up with one that you’re gonna be able to share with the class so they really understand what this is about, okay? You guys are doing a great job, come up with one as a group.


    Student: When she tried to teach her little brother when she was riding down the hill she hit a bump and she fell.

    KB: So I’m gonna say right away that I’m a little confused, because I don’t know what she was trying to teach her little brother.

    Student: She was trying to teach her brother how to sled. And she said “I’m gonna show you how to sled the real way.”

    KB: So you just told me a really great detail from it, right? But I just want that full main idea, would you tell me that the whole main idea of the story is that Ella said “I’m gonna show you how to do it the right way?” That’s the whole main idea?

    Student: She’s trying to teach him how to sled and –

    Student: And then she like, when she went down the hill –

    Student: There was a bump and she hit it and she –

    Student: She was turning, turning –

    Student: Her sled went backwards and she started falling, slipping, all kinds of things.

    KB: Okay so you guys are telling me a whole lot of details, which is awesome because you’re really retelling what happened, but now I want us to stop and focus on just what is that main idea? I’m gonna ask you to tell the class what this was about in one sentence. So how would you describe what this is about in just one sentence? What was the main part? What part of it, if you look at the chart, keeps it so it doesn’t change the story, so it remains really interesting, the part that the reader needs to know to understand it.

    Student: She’s trying to teach her brother how to sled.

    KB: Exactly. I think the main idea here is that Ella was trying to teach her brother how to sled down the hill, right? Then all these other details happen that make the story more interesting, but if you didn’t tell me that Ella was trying to teach her brother how to sled, I would have no idea what the story was about, right? So do you think that’s a good main idea to tell the class, or do you want to add anything to it?

    Student: I think that’s the main idea that we would like to tell the class.

    KB: That’s a good one?


    KB: So who can share with the class in one sentence the main idea of their story so even though other people in the class who didn’t read it, they’ll be able to understand what your story was about? Daysia?

    Student: We came up – our book is called A Bath For Bella, and we came up with the main idea was, he said Molly and Bella having a crazy adventure cleaning Bella up before the dog show.

    KB: Okay, so they were having a crazy adventure cleaning Bella the dog up before having to go to the dog show. Sounds good. Did you guys, you read the same thing, would you agree that was your main idea, or would you say it in a different way?

    Student: Um, we would agree that was our main idea.

    KB: Yeah? Okay, nice job, so that shows me you guys really came up with a good one, if two people reading the same thing had that same main idea. Ikerity, what was yours?

    Student: Um, her and her brother went sledding and her mom was there watching her, so the main idea was she thought she can sled good because she was like teasing her brother and then when she was sliding down, she like turned and like she didn’t know –

    Student: She hit a bump.

    Student: -- and she hit a bump.

    KB: So the main idea is that Ella thought she was a really good sledder but it turns out she wasn’t? Good, who else read Ella The Expert? Do you guys think that was the main idea too or do you have it in your own words? What are your words of saying it?

    Students: Um –

    KB: One person.

    Student: Ella was trying to teach her brother how to sled.

    KB: Uh-huh. So that was your main idea, that Ella was trying to teach her brother how to sled? So what if we combined yours? Ella was trying to teach her brother how to sled, but she really wasn’t very good? Does that make a full main idea of your story? That sounds great.

    KB: So, give me a thumbs-up if you think that finding the main idea of your story was a little bit challenging. I totally agree. Give me a thumbs-up if you think, you know, it was hard, but it’s definitely something that I can do if I try my hardest. I definitely agree, I think this is not an easy skill that I’m teaching you and this is not an easy skill that you’re practicing, and I don’t expect everyone to be able to go back and right away find the main idea like that. But the more we practice, the more I think you guys are gonna do an excellent job just being able to focus in on what is that main idea, so that when it’s time to explain it or rethink it in our minds, you guys are gonna be experts at really figuring out what is the main idea of my story, and I’m really proud of the work that I saw with you guys.

    Fade Out

School Details

Ps 110 Florence Nightingale
285 Delancey Street
New York NY 10002
Population: 374

Data Provided By:



Katie Bannon
English Language Arts Math / 3 / Teacher


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