Main Idea and Main Topic Anchor Chart Ideas

Main idea and main topic are two reading skills that you will teach and revisit many times throughout the year. According to Common Core State Standards, the difference between the main topic and main idea is that main topic is just a few words about what the text is about versus a sentence to describe what the text is about. For example, main topic would be ‘tigers’ diet’ while main idea would be ‘Tigers are carnivores that hunt other animals in the wild’. Also, according to Common Core State Standards, main topic is covered in kindergarten, first, and second grade. While main idea is covered in third, fourth, and fifth grade. I’ve collected several main topic and main idea anchor chart ideas that might spark solutions for your introductory lessons! Enjoy.

Anchor Charts for Main Topic

The next three anchor charts are all about main topic, which as stated above, is in K-2 classrooms. These anchor charts aim to get the students to state what the text is mostly about in a couple of words.

Main topic anchor chart

This anchor chart introduces what a main topic is. It tells the students how to find the main topic when reading a text, by looking at the title and pictures and then rereading the first and last sentences. Previously, I published this anchor chart in my blog post that dives deeper into Main Idea and Main Topic. Click here to read more!

main topic anchor chart with key details

This is an interactive anchor chart, or simply an activity for students to participate in when first learning about main topic. If you divide a piece of anchor chart paper (or printer paper for individual activity) into four squares, this allows students to fill the squares with information about main topic and key details. Then, they can write them in, or they can stick post-it notes in the square so that you can reuse the anchor chart for multiple texts. A deeper dive into these standards is here: Read more about main topic and main idea here.

Main topic and big idea anchor chart

The author at First Grade Wow created an adorable and memorable light bulb for students to interact with after reading a text. She uses it for a fictional text, however, it can be used for informational as well. Click here to check out that blog post!

Main Idea Charts

The next few anchor charts are all about main idea. Accordingly, these are in 3rd-5th grade classrooms. They’re expected to give more detail in their main idea, plus the supporting detail will be more in-depth as well. Many of these anchor chart ideas are interactive, which is a vital activity to let the students engage with their anchor charts.

Ice Cream Main idea and key details anchor chart

Here is an anchor chart idea that one of my fourth-grade friends uses. It’s interactive and engaging for the students because of its real-life connection. The base of the ice cream cone is the main idea, and then the scoops are the details. This representation helps the students visually see that the main idea is the most important idea of the text, and then the supporting details follow.

Table metaphor main idea and key details anchor chart

More Post-It Note Interactive Activities

The example above is a beautifully interactive anchor chart created by Melissa at Got to Teach. The anchor chart can be used over and over again for guided texts in the classroom. Using post-it notes, she is making it possible for students to interact with the anchor chart. This is also a brilliant visual representation for main topic because it shows that the main topic (tabletop) supported by the supporting details (table legs). Click here to check out that blog post.

Rainbow and cloud main idea and key details anchor chart

I found this anchor chart on Instagram. Sydney at Eduyaytion created this visual representation for the purpose of demonstrating main idea. She teaches her students that the cloud of a rainbow is the main idea, then the light beams coming out are the details. This is just another delightful way to visually show main idea always being supported by key information from the text. Check out her Instagram for this idea!

Student led main idea and key detail anchor chart

The students create these anchor charts! This is an amazing idea from Allison at Stuckey in Second. First, the students create simple charts that allow them to write their main idea at the top after reading a text. Then, they use their text to fill in details underneath. This is a great lesson idea AND you can use these anchor charts for the purpose of showing student work. Check out that blog post here.

Want a free Main Idea activity to get you started?


This free digital activity comes with links to Seesaw and Google Slides for your students. They will practice their main topic or main idea skills.

Or, grab a complete no-prep unit!

If you’re looking for Main Topic or Main Idea lessons that are ready to go, these grade-level units have everything you need! From lesson plans to assessments, task cards to comprehension passages, click your grade level for a closer look!

Looking for virtual lesson ideas?

I have created two digital activity sets that cover Main Topic and Main Idea. As I said throughout the blog post, main topic is for K-2 and main idea is for 3-4.

Interested in reading more ELA blog posts?


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