The ability to identify a central concept in a passage or collection of ideas is one that will hold students in good stead throughout their life, and not just in the teaching of reading comprehension.
Students utilising this skill will be able to cut through the details and extraneous information in any presentation of knowledge. They will be able to arrive at what they think is the most important idea underpinning it, allowing them to focus on that vital point and sort through ideas so that they can be confident they are approaching the most important, central idea rather than being bogged down in subsidiary details. This skill is particularly important in areas of study and knowledge acquisition, allowing as it does for the allocation of focus based on priority.
This skill is also simply a fundamental aspect of evaluating knowledge and ideas – if a student can identify what the main idea, central theme or defining concept is in something, then they have already gone partway toward demonstrating a cogent understanding of it.
Finding the Main Idea is therefore a vitally important skill, and thus it is quite rightly one of the 12 Reading Strategies that underpin CARS & STARS Online.
The main idea of a reading passage is a sentence that tells what the passage is mostly about. Questions about main idea in CARS & STARS Online might ask students to find what a passage is mostly about or mainly about. The questions might also ask them to choose the best title for a passage. When answering a question about main idea, students are initially told to ask themselves, “What is the passage mostly about?” They then choose their answer
In fact, Finding the Main Idea is the first strategy on which students are asked to answer questions throughout the entirety of the CARS & STARS Online program, demonstrating its centrality to reading comprehension and importance in the program as a whole. Students are much more likely to do well in the other targeted strategies if they have first been able to accurately identify the main idea, because they have already shown a fundamental, basic understanding of the passage.