Main idea

Discuss different types of cohesive links with students and point out how these words often signal important information. Point out that connectives are outside the clauses when they begin sentences and are followed by a comma. Text connectives let you know that the information following is an important comparison, contrast or final statement and so they link to the rest of the text.

A final statement might be signalled by ‘consequently, in conclusion or finally’. Comparisons or contrasts could be signalled by ‘however, but, on the other hand, as opposed to, surprisingly or likewise’. Connections are signalled by words like, ‘then, next, since, before, after, of course and importantly’.

Conventions such as ellipsis (...) can also be used for cohesive effect by making the reader pause before contrasting or unexpected information. Brackets can also be used to add relevant information or link with other information in a text.

Activity 1: connecting connectives

Telling students about connectives and how they sit outside clauses and connect information in and between sentences. They often begin sentences and are followed by a comma. Have students in pairs highlight these words in a text and discuss how the words help them to identify and connect the key ideas in order to find the main idea of the text. Some examples of connectives are:

  • Temporal: first, second, next, meanwhile, while, then, later, previously, finally, to conclude
  • Causal: consequently, due to, hence, accordingly
  • Additive: also, moreover, above all, equally, besides, furthermore, as well as, or, nor, additionally
  • Comparative: rather, elsewhere, instead, alternatively, on the other hand
  • Conditional: yet, still, although, unless, however, other wise, still, despite, nevertheless
  • Clarifying: in fact, for example, in support of this, to refute.

Activity 2: three dots and you're out, ellipsis

Have students find examples of points of ellipsis (where a text uses three dots). Ask the students to identify the author's purpose in each specific context. Groups of students then categorise the different instances by emotion created, by structural position (at beginning, end or middle of text) or by how it links the text (contrast, compare or other). The results are shared and collated. Students use the convention for a specific effect in their own writing.

Resources

Reading comprehension: how to find the main idea in a text

References

Australian curriculum – ACELA1809: Text structure and organisation: Understand how coherence is created in complex texts through devices like lexical cohesion, ellipsis, grammatical theme and text connectives.

NSW syllabus – EN4-3B: Understand how coherence is created in complex texts through devices like lexical cohesion, ellipsis, grammatical theme and text connectives.

NSW literacy continuum – Comprehension, Cluster 14, Marker 4: Makes bridging inferences by linking pronouns, synonyms and other cohesive devices to clarify and build meaning.

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