Piecing Together the Main Idea

Scripture: Esther

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will review the story of Esther.
  • Students will practice finding the main idea of a piece of literature and learn how it is supported through details and consistency in the story.
  • Students will create their own main idea puzzles by writing details on each piece that support the main idea.

Guiding Question: How is the main idea of a story supported by details?

Materials: construction paper, markers, colored pencils, books on students’ reading levels

Procedure: Review the story of Esther focusing especially on how her bravery and faith in God’s providence helped save the Israelites. Discuss how it is included in the Bible because of God’s evident presence even though his name is never mentioned. Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not have the name of God written in it. However, the details throughout the story point to God. Ask students how they see God’s work in the story.

Tell students that stories usually have a main idea that gives purpose to it. It is the overarching idea that all the other details fit within. Their job is to determine what they think the main idea is by deciding the key message. Have students tell what they think the main idea of Esther is. Tell students this tip for testing if they have a main idea instead of a detail: Does every chapter of the book (or paragraph of an essay) support it? If it does not apply to every chapter, then it is probably not the main idea. If it only applies to one chapter, then it probably does not pertain to the entire story. Most of the details in the story will support the main idea, but one detail may not be supported throughout the whole story.

Here are some possibilities for the main idea in Esther: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. God preserves his chosen people. Esther was brave when she acted on faith.

Students can then do this activity using the story of Esther or other stories they have read. You may also want to provide books that students can read to each other to base the activity on. Have students come up with a list of 6 details that support the main idea of a story they read. Give each student a piece of construction paper. Fold the construction paper into 6 sections. Turn the paper so that it is lying horizontally. Across the middle line, have students write the main idea so that it touches most of the sections of paper. Then, in each small section, students can write a detail that supports the main idea. While they wait for their peers to finish, they can color lightly with colored pencils. Emphasize that the writing still needs to be visible so they should not color too dark or hard. Have students cut the pieces of construction paper along the folded lines so that it makes 6 pieces. They now have a “supporting details puzzle”. There is one detail per piece and the main idea is on part of almost every piece. It will be read when the puzzle is assembled. Let them trade puzzles with a peer and solve each other’s. As an added challenge, students can read the details on each piece before solving it and try to guess the main idea. Then they can check if they were right when they piece it together. Note: Tell students that different people may have a slightly different perspective of the main idea, so they should not get upset if they did not think of exactly what their peer did.

Additional Question: How does having a main idea to guide a story, help writers be more consistent? Imagine reading a story without a main idea. How would that be difficult to follow?

Supplemental Activity: Provide students with short age-appropriate essays to read, but cover up the Titles. Then have them write a title. How did the details and overarching theme help you decide what to title the essay? Have them compare their written titles with each other. At the end, read the real title.