Mentor Texts for Teaching Main Idea

Ask any elementary teacher to name one of the top three nonfiction reading skills, and I can almost guarantee that identifying the main idea would be part of that list! It is definitely one of the most important reading skills we want our students to learn! The ability to sift through all the details in a text and pick out the main idea is really an essential part of reading comprehension for informational text.

Since I love teaching with mentor texts, I put together a list of some of my favorite mentor texts to use for teaching main idea. Check it out below!

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1. Whose Eye Am I

This is a perfect book to practice finding the main idea of a short piece of text. Not only does this book have awesome pictures that will grab your students’ attention, but it is also is packed with interesting facts about how different animals see.


2. What A Waste

This book has it all- lively, colorful illustrations, a whole bunch of information about how human’s use of plastic is affecting the earth, and how we can all make small changes that will have a big impact. The book is broken down into short,  digestible pieces, which also makes it great for working on main idea.


3. Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs!

Starting with the Ancient Chinese, who thought dinosaur bones must be the bones of magical dragons, this book explores some of the oldest theories about dinosaurs and how wrong they were. It’s a really cool look at how scientist (and ordinary people) evolve in their understanding as new evidence is uncovered.


4. Discovering Mars: The Amazing Story of the Red Planet

This book takes an in-depth look at the Red Planet, with myths and facts about life on Mars, the Mars Rover missions, and ideas about whether or not humans will really be able to live on Mars one day. It has great photos and cheerful texts, making this book a win for students and teachers alike.


5. Toys! The Amazing Story Behind Some Great Inventions

In this book, students will learn the story behind some of their favorite toys! From the Slinky to Legos to Mr. Potato Head, each toy has its own unique (and sometimes unbelievable) story.


6. Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World 

Have you ever wondered about the different tooth-related traditions of people in faraway places? I have to admit, I hadn’t! Turns out, these traditions vary a lot from place to place. This book provides a delightful look at what happens to lost teeth all over the world.


7. Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions 

In this fascinating story, kids will learn how Lonnie Johnson accidentally invented the Super Soaker while trying to create a new refrigerator cooling system.


8. Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island (Scientists in the Field Series)

In this book, you will learn about how an island, called Surtsey, formed right off the shores of Iceland in 1964. The book follows an entomologist named Erling Ólafsson as he studies how insects and other species appear and begin to thrive on the island.


9. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

This book is beautifully written and full of wonderful details. It is also historically accurate, walking the readers through an account of the eight-day flight of Apollo 11 and man’s first steps on the moon.


10. Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist 

Mary Anning was fearless, curious, and a natural at finding fossils! In fact, she is credited with being the very first paleontologist, ever. Read this book to learn about her life, her discoveries, and her many contributions to the world of science.



Hopefully, after reading this post, you are pumped up about teaching main idea! If you are, and you are also looking for some time-saving resources to use for teaching main idea take a look at the resources below. (Both are available in print and digital formats, so it’s a win-win!)


3rd Grade Main Idea Print and Digital

Main Idea 3rd Grade unit in print and digital will help your students truly understand the main idea


4th and 5th Grades Main Idea Print and Digital

Main Idea in Print and digital for 4th and 5th Grades by The Teacher Next Door


These task cards can be used for centers, independent work, or whole-class games. They also work for 3rd-5th grade!

Main Idea Task Card Bundle

Main Idea Task Cards Bundle


If you are looking for even more information about how to effectively teach main idea in the upper elementary classroom, check out the posts below!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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