Finding the main idea – Advanced level

Is it always easy to find the main idea of a text?

How can we do it?

The main idea of a text must appear in every paragraph. A paragraph that does not contain a certain aspect of the main idea or some information closely related to the main idea does not belong to the text. Finding the paragraphs that belong or do not belong to the text will help students develop a very important reading strategy: Finding the main idea of the paragraph / the text.

The following text is actually composed of three short texts. Somebody has mixed the paragraphs up. You will have to read the text carefully and put the paragraphs that do not belong to the first text into text No.2 and text No.3.


Reading Comprehension Text*

Sleep is a subject many people like to talk about. Whenever the conversation turns to the subject of sleep, most people have something to say about it. After all, by the time you are twenty, you have probably had more than seven years of solid sleep experience.

Although it may seem hard for some of us to believe, 32 percent of adults in the western world suffer from some degree of insomnia** and 15 to 20 percent consider their problem serious or even chronic.

What can you do if you are an insomniac and spend hours looking at the ceiling while so many others enjoy a good night's sleep? You may count sheep, watch a documentary or perhaps read a chapter in your English book…

For the average young person sleep is not a problem. Teenagers usually drop off as soon as their heads hit the pillow. Unless there is an important exam or a sports competition the following day, nothing will interfere with their falling asleep. Exams and sports may not, however, be the only obstacle. Falling in love may also account for many sleepless nights.

Sleep is necessary for our health, but not everybody needs the same number of sleep hours in order to function properly. Besides, different people may need sleep at different hours. Most people are active during the day and sleep at night. Others are known as night owls. They are most alert and energetic after midnight. They find waking up in the morning a true ordeal. It takes them a long time "to get started" and they may not be able to concentrate before lunch time.

There is one thing that you should avoid. Don't take sleeping pills unless medically prescribed. They may seem the solution in the short run, but may prove harmful in the long run. You may wish to try some new devices developed to help people with sleeping problems like vibrating beds which rock you to sleep or tiny transistors which produce a low, dull sound.

Certain people need perfect conditions in order to fall asleep: The room must be completely dark, the temperature should neither be too warm nor too cool, the mattress must be perfect and above all, they need absolute silence. On the other hand, there are people who will fall asleep anywhere, anytime, on the bus, on a plane, in front of the T.V. and even in the middle of an English lesson….



First Activity

  • Read the text.
  • Find the paragraphs that deal with the significance of sleep and its importance. This will be the first text. Choose a suitable title for the text.
  • Find the paragraphs that deal with people who have sleep problems. This will be text No. 2. Choose a suitable title.
  • There are two paragraphs that deal with both people who have no sleep problems and people who suffer from sleepless nights. Find the paragraphs. This will be text No. 3. Find a suitable title.

Second Activity

State whether the following sentences are TRUE or FALSE (according to the passage.)

  • The transistors that produce a low sound may help you wake up.
  • Tension may interfere with falling asleep.
  • Everybody needs perfect conditions to fall asleep.
  • Few people have anything to say about sleep.
  • Sleeping devices never help.
  • Night owls are most active in the daytime.
  • Twenty percent of adults in the Western world suffer from some insomnia.
  • Some people need more sleep than others.
  • Most people don't like to talk about sleep.
  • We can do without sleep.
  • Sleep is not a problem for the average person.
  • Everybody will fall asleep immediately if there is absolute silence.
  • You should try sleeping pills.
  • Sleeping pills are completely safe.
  • A vibrating bed is an old device.
  • It is hard for night owls to wake up in the morning.

Now correct the false sentences.

State next to every sentence to what text it belongs.

Suggestions for Class Discussion:

  • Have you ever stayed awake for more than 24 hours? Tell the class about it.
  • Do you have sleep problems? What do you do about it?


Homework Assignment

Write 2 – 3 paragraphs about one of the following subjects:

  • Describe a particularly funny / strange / beautiful / frightening dream you have had. 
  • I am a happy, proud night owl. Explain the advantages of being a night owl.


And that's all for today. More texts and suggestions in my next post.

*- For more exercises on this text, please seeThe Lively World of English – Book 1 – p 8 – 10 and p 63 – 65.

**- insomnia – נדודי שינה

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