Finding the Main Idea, Getting to Work on Time

Students at A level will be introduced to finding a main idea through pictures, and students with reading levels as low as first-grade equivalent will read a passage, retell it, and determine the main idea. Extension activities include practicing time management skills, including filling out a timesheet


R2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas. (Apply this standard to texts of appropriate complexity as outlined by Standard 10.)


Estimated timeframe:

Activity steps

  1. To introduce students to the topic and prepare them to think about main idea, have them navigate to the website and find the section opens in a new window Y.3 What is the picture about?. Students can practice together and independently. As a low-tech alternative, print one of the pictures from or show a different picture or photo to the class. Ask students about details in the picture; how do they know the picture is “about” the main idea they identified in discussion and not these details?
  2. Then, direct students to the Marshall Adult Education Reading Skills for Today’s Adults website: opens in a new window
    • Students choose the story “Getting to Work on Time.” (This is in level .7, right below “Getting to Work,” which is also applicable.)
    • Students do the pre-reading activity (as a discussion), do the listening and repeated readings, and answer the questions at the end.
    • Students may share written answers with a partner or the class.
    • Students answer additional questions, “What is this story about?” “What is the main idea and where does the author prove the message?”
      • (Answer: The main idea is: how Sai gets to work on time.)
      • Reiterate that the three ways Sai prepares to get to work on time are the key details of the passage.
  3. Extension opportunities include:
    • Lead a class discussion focused on workplace readiness questions. (Alternately, pairs or groups can discuss while the instructor monitors and provides work-appropriate suggestions as needed. You can also use these questions as the basis to generate a group composition using opens in a new window the language experience approach.)
      • If you are going to be late to work, what should you do?
      • How do you organize your time before work? During work?
    • Guide students in filling out a time sheet such as this one available online.

Workforce readiness skills

ELA Activities for Level A
Conversational Fishbowl
Students choose a question (from a list such as opens in a new window this one ) to discuss in order to become more comfortable talking in a discussion format. Instructional focus should be on learners speaking one at a time and listening to respond or add to the topic. Read More Conversational Fishbowl
“How To” Speeches
Teacher models a simple “how to” speech. Then, students prepare and deliver their own speeches. Read More “How To” Speeches
America’s Skilled Workers: Vocabulary
Students read opens in a new window “Filling America’s Need for Skilled Workers” Newsela article at an appropriate Lexile level and underline unknown words or new vocabulary, transitional words, and specific vocabulary words related to jobs and economics. Students then use opens in a new window Quizlet to create online vocabulary cards. Finally, students create individual resumés for Virginia job/job markets that they are interested in. Read More America’s Skilled Workers: Vocabulary
Understanding the Dyslexic Mind
In Part 1, students listen to a radio interview with a dyslexic journalist and answer questions about the details. In Part 2, students listen and read along to a radio piece about successful dyslexics. Students answer questions found in the reading. In Part 3, students analyze a graph showing the divergence of IQ and reading ability in dyslexics. Read More Understanding the Dyslexic Mind
Workplace Safety Presentations
Students read and listen to texts related to workplace safety. Then, students create their own multimedia presentations synthesizing the workplace safety lessons learned. Read More Workplace Safety Presentations
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