What is the Main Idea of a Story?

Hey, guys! Welcome to this Mometrix video. Today, we are going to look at the main idea in a story.

Sometimes main ideas can be tricky to find at first. That’s why we want to help you guys practice so that you can feel more confident in your ability to easily identify the main idea in any story. You may have heard it called a topic sentence as well. This is the exact same thing as the main idea. Neither one is wrong, but for this video, I’m going to refer to it as the main idea.

Before we go on to the main idea, let’s first define “topic” and hopefully clear up some confusion.

Topic

The topic of a paragraph is the simplest description of what the paragraph is about. For example:

“Studying is the best way to learn. Studying helps you to remember what you learned in class, and it helps you to better understand the subject. As you gain more knowledge through studying, you can also gain a deeper appreciation for that subject. When you appreciate something, you have a desire to learn more about it, making your study time more productive.”

The topic of this paragraph is studying. The topic should be composed of one word if possible, but sometimes it can be a very short phrase like “study hard,” or “keep studying.”

Main Idea

Now the main idea, like its name suggests, expresses the most general (or main) idea that the writer wants the reader to take away. Main ideas are always stated in complete sentences. Ask yourself, “What is the main thing that is being said about the topic?” So, in this case, what is being said about studying? “Studying is the best way to learn.” Oftentimes, the main idea is stated in the first sentence, like it was in this paragraph. However, it can also be found in the middle, or in the last part of the paragraph as well.

Practice

Now, it’s your turn to practice! I’m going to give you a paragraph, but, before we walk through it together, I want you to practice identifying the main idea on your own first.

“Friendships are important. It is good to have friends that are different than you are, because they have strengths that you do not have, even if it may not seem like it at first. To have a friend, you must show yourself friendly. That is why kindness is so important in building friendships. Life is not always happy when friends are rude, don’t invite you to join in on activities, or say mean things about you. Even when friends are rude to us, we should still be kind to them, because, though friendships can be hard, they are still very important. Friendships are also important because they can be used to help teach us to be patient.”

We can see that the topic is friendships. One helpful clue is that friendships or friends is repeated in every sentence throughout the paragraph. Now, what is the general idea being said about friendships? Friendships are important! This is stated in the first sentence, and it is shown in several other places throughout the paragraph.

You guys are doing great, so let’s try another one!

“When we decide to do something, something, or someone, is always affected by that decision. Sometimes our choices have positive effects, and sometimes they have negative effects. This is important to be aware of because our decisions not only affect us, but they may also affect others. You need to think of what kind of effect it can have before you choose to do something. Sometimes you are not able to see, right away, how our actions have an impact, but that does not mean they do not. Our choices always have consequences.”

So we know that the topic is choices, decisions, or actions. If you said any of these, you are correct!

Now, let’s look for the main idea. What is being said about choices, decisions, or actions? Let’s take a look. Every sentence talks about how our choices have an impact, and when we get to the very last sentence, it puts it very simply: “Our choices always have consequences.” So, there is the main idea. Great work guys!

I hope this video was helpful. To check out more of our videos click right here.

See you next time!

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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: October 8, 2021