Make teaching main idea more exciting with these main idea games/centers for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students

Main Idea Centers for Upper Elementary

Main Idea: 3 Center Ideas for upper elementary

I don’t know very many teachers who actually LIKE teaching main idea. It’s such a difficult, abstract, and BORING concept to teach. It seems like either kids get it or they don’t – and more often than not they don’t.

Because students are usually confused when finding the main idea and supporting details of a passage, it can be difficult to create main idea centers or games that students can complete independently and at the same time complete successfully.

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

Or, join my membership and have access to ALL of the resources I have created. Find out more here.

Main Idea Center #1: Main Idea and 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 students to practice that skill.

3rd Grade main idea and supporting 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!

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.

You can download one of these mazes for FREE (as well as plenty of other resources) in my Members Area Here. Just look for the red “Free” underneath the section titled “Main Idea Centers.”

Main Idea Center #2: Matching Game

Simpler is always better. That might not be true for everything in life, but it’s my motto for games in the 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 common game in classrooms.

3rd / 4th Grade Main Idea Center - matching game.  Students must match the main idea to the correct paragraph.

My Main Idea Matching Game requires students to match a main idea with the correct paragraph. Students turn over 2 cards (a paragraph card that’s in one color, and a main idea card that’s in another color), and try to match them up. Simple yet valuable.

The game I created has several paragraphs 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.

Main Idea Center #3: Main Idea and Details Sort

Another game with clear and simple instructions – students must match up the details with the correct main ideas.

In the game I created, 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.

3rd Grade main idea center idea - students must sort details and match them with the appropriate main idea.

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


I believe accountability is essential whenever having students work in centers, so when you buy these low prep, already created main idea centers, all of these center ideas also come with a recording sheet to help teachers understand their students’ thinking.

Quality centers that really get students thinking critically require a lot of preparation and time. Save yourself that time by buying my Main Idea Centers resource!

Main Idea Centers for Upper Elementary - 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade.

Want Some Free, No Prep Main Idea Activities?

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