Ideas for How to Teach Main Idea and Detail to a Student with ASD


The first strategy that I would like to share to support a student’s understanding of main idea and the key details came from observing second graders.

The strategy involved highlighting the most important detail on a page to arrive at the main idea of a text. This strategy works with text that is in guided reading levels C through L.

Michelle Hartlaub, a reading specialist in my district, modeled (I Do) for the students how to look for and highlight one key word on a page.

The small group was reading a text about duct tape. The text started with the history of duct tape. The teacher modeled for students how to find what she thought was a key word from each page she was reading, highlight it, then explain through a think-aloud technique why it was important. Then, she had students read a page of text, highlight what they thought was the most important word, and discuss why each student chose the word he did.

The teacher kept track of the words students highlighted on a portable whiteboard, and then discussed how all of the words fit together, to support students’ understanding of how to “find” the main idea.

This strategy can be approached through a bottom-up method (as described) or a top-down method, starting from the title and seeing how “key words” support the title as a topic, then answering the question, What does the author suggest is important about this topic? to arrive at the main idea.

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