Main Idea Glove and Book

2013 09 21_1856I went to a seminar, years ago, and I can’t remember the gentleman who shared this idea, but I’ve been using it ever since. And I have to say, administrators really like this lesson when they come in to observe, which is always a good thing.

First you need a gardening glove, preferably white or light colored, and canvas. It’s hard to write on the ones with plastic nubbies. With a sharpie, write the words in order starting at the thumb: who, what, when, where, why.

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I use this with the nominees for the Nevada Young Reader Award, which is an award chosen by the citizens of Nevada. Anyone who reads all eight of the picture books, can vote for the one they like the best. I read all of them to my students, every year.

When I start out, I read a book that was a previous winner, called Hoodwinked, by Arthur Howard. It’s a very cute book about a young witch who wants a creepy pet but finally finds happiness with a cute and cuddly pet. It’s an easy story to figure out the main idea.

I put the glove on and I hold up my thumb and say, “Who is the main character?” Students will answer, “The girl!” For some reason they never pay attention to the names of the characters, so I will ask again or we can refer to the book.

Then I hold up my index finger and say, “what did she finally do?” This is important, because the main idea covers the whole story, not just one event, so we have to figure out what she accomplished.

Then I hold my middle finger (still holding up thumb and index finger, don’t want to offend anyone ;)) and ask “When did she do it?” When is a tricky one, because many stories don’t have a clear time frame. Sometimes we determine it’s “one day”, or “in the summer”. Sometimes, it’s very specific, like when we read One Giant Leap, which was nominated last year, and took place July 20, 1969.

Then I hold up my ring finger, and ask, “Where did she do it?” Some stories have more than one setting, but we try to narrow it down by linking it to the “what did she finally do”.

Finally, I hold up my pinkie, and am now holding up all my fingers and ask, “Why did she do it?” The why is explaining why she accomplished the what.

So, for the book, Hoodwinked, the main idea is:

  • Who: Mitzi
  • What: finally found a pet
  • When: one rainy night
  • Where: at her front door
  • Why: because she decided looks don’t mean everything.

In one sentence: Mitzi finally found a pet, one rainy night, at her front door because she decided looks don’t mean everything. I’ve got the main idea.

From then on when we use the gloves, I put on my glove and hold up my fingers while I say, “Who is the main character, what did he finally do, when did he do it, where did he do it and why did he do it? Turn to a neighbor and figure out the main idea.” Then, hopefully, they pair up and start figuring it out together. I give them a minute or so, but it always suddenly quiets down, it’s bizarre, and I say, “Who wants to give it a try?” Hands go up and I throw, yes throw the other glove to someone. They really like that. Then it takes them like 27 minutes to get the glove on and they hold up their fingers like I modeled and tell us the main idea. I say “Good throw it back”, which they do and usually hit someone with it and I might say, “I liked the who and where, but we need to work on the what, when and why. Who else wants to try?” Then I throw it to someone else. We keep going until we find the main idea.

Then they return to their seats and write the main idea into their book. For 2nd and 3rd graders, I post the main idea on my screen along with my directions for the class. 4th and 5th graders can remember it themselves and write it into their books. They also rate the book by coloring the number of stars they think the book is worth.

  • 5 stars=one of the best books ever
  • 4 stars=a very good book
  • 3 stars=I liked it OK
  • 2 stars=I didn’t like that book very much
  • 1 star=I hated that book

To make the book, cut off the margins on the dotted lines and throw away. Then cut the dotted lines in the middle.

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Pages 3 & 4 are the same, so you can make as many copies as you want and make the book as long as you want. Maybe you want to use it for the whole year, so you will want several pages.

Then staple in the middle and fold. Glue into your lapbook.

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Click here to purchase the Main Idea Book at