3 Fun Main Idea and Details Games / Center Ideas for Upper Elementary

Main Idea and Details Centers / Games for Upper Elementary

3 Fun Main Idea and Details Games / Center Ideas for Upper Elementary

Giving 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students a main idea game / center activity to complete on their own can be risky.  Main idea and supporting details is an abstract and tricky skill.  This makes it difficult to find games or centers that students can complete both independently and successfully, and without reinforcing misconceptions.

Below are some helpful ideas to use as main idea games and centers in your upper elementary classroom. You can create any of these activities on your own, but if you would like to save some time you can purchase these low prep Main Idea Centers here.

Game / Center #1: Main Idea and Key Details Mazes

I've found that students can identify details from a passage fairly easily. However, it is much harder for students to identify which details from a passage support the main idea, and which details DON'T.

These main idea mazes are a fun way for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students to practice that skill.

3rd, 4th, and 5th grade main idea and key details center idea - students are given a main idea and have to shade in the details that support this main idea to complete the maze!

In the mazes, students are given a main idea. In order to find their way through the maze, the students must shade in the details that support the main idea - and leave the details that DON'T support the main idea blank.

Many of the details I have provided are on topic, but do NOT support the main idea. This forces students to think more critically about what the main idea actually states.

The mazes in this Main Idea Centers Resource are a favorite with upper elementary teachers because students think they are so much fun!  They are also popular for reviewing character traits, theme, cause and effect, multiplication, and quadrilaterals.

Main Idea mazes help upper elementary students think more critically about why a key detail supports the main idea

Game / Center #2: Main Idea and Details Matching Game

Simpler is always better. That might not be true for everything in life, but it's an excellent motto for setting up centers in a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade classroom.

If I'm wanting students to play a game with a partner with minimal supervision, the game and the rules have to be clear and simple. That's why the matching game - also called Concentration - is a favorite game in upper elementary.  It limits the time spent arguing and increases the time spent playing.

This main idea and supporting details matching game makes a fun center for upper elementary.

Not all main idea matching games are created equal, however.  Often, the content in the matching games is too obvious, making it easy for students to know what should match up without actually having to understand main idea.

The matching game in this Main Idea Centers Resource requires students to match up a main idea with the correct paragraph.  The paragraphs, however, are on similar topics.  This makes the main idea less obvious to students, requiring them to think about the entire paragraph before matching it up with the main idea.

Game / Center #3: Main Idea and Supporting Details Sort

A main idea and details sort is another center idea with clear and simple instructions - students must match up the details with the correct main ideas.

In the sort included in this Main Idea and Details Resource, all of the main ideas are on the topic of ears - the parts of an ear, how to protect your ears, etc. Students lay out the main ideas, and then match the 12 details to the correct main ideas.

Because all of the main ideas have the same topic, students have to actually consider why a certain detail supports a certain main idea.

If your students are struggling with understanding main idea, then check out these activities for teaching main idea so that students actually understand.  

A main idea and details sort requires students to think critically about how details support the main idea

Main Idea Games Without All the Prep

Minimize your prep while maximizing student learning when you buy these low prep, already created main idea centers.

You'll get all of these centers, as well a a student recording sheet for each game to help you hold students accountable and to better understand their thinking.

And as an added bonus, it includes both a printable and a digital version.

Low prep main idea games to make reading center time in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade easier on you

Want Some Free, No Prep Main Idea Activities?

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