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Heads Up for Headlines!

Main Idea Lesson Plan


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  • Arts & Humanities
    Language Arts
  • Social Studies
    Current Events


K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

Students write headlines expressing the main idea of a group of de-headed news stories.


Students will

  • read de-headed news stories,
  • consider the main idea of each news story,
  • write a headline that reflects the main idea of the news story.


current events, news, newspaper, headline, main idea

Materials Needed

newspaper articles without headlines (See detailed instructions in Lesson Plan section.)

Lesson Plan

(Students can work on this activity individually, in pairs, or in small groups.) Collect from your local newspaper, or from some of the online resources listed at the end of this section, a wide variety of news articles that will be of interest to your students. Photocopy the articles and cut off the headlines.

Distribute the photocopies of the de-headed articles, and have students write a headline reflecting the main idea of the assigned article. Provide time for students to share their news stories and headlines with their classmates.

Post all the original headlines in an accessible place; have students select that headline that goes with the article they read. Explore the following questions with students: Do the students' headlines match the actual headline? Do they express the same idea as the newspaper headlines? Are the student-written headlines an improvement on the actual headlines?


  • When doing this activity with younger students, read aloud the news stories.
  • Elementary students might benefit from practicing headline writing as an entire class before writing headlines for assigned news stories.
  • Older students can work in groups, writing headlines for a group of articles. They can then critique the headlines their peers write and choose the best headline for each article.
  • Discuss with students what makes a good headline. For example, a good headline tells the main idea of the story, has a subject and a verb, and entices the reader to read the article.

Newspapers are the best resource for this activity, but teachers might use some of the following online news sites as sources:

  • CNN Student News
  • New York Times Learning Network
  • PBS Online NewsHour Extra: News for Students
  • Scholastic News Zone
  • StudentNewsNet
  • TIME for Kids
  • Weekly Reader


    Provide five news stories without headlines, and challenge each student to write headlines for all five stories. At least four of five headlines should correctly identify the main idea of the news story.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    Submitted By

    Gary Hopkins

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Civics Return to the Newspapers lesson plan page.


    Originally published 03/22/2002
    Last updated 09/17/2010