Idea Belt is an engaging and adaptable extension project for all
grades. The “belt” consists of a series of paper circles
on which students draw representative scenes. The project is an
effective way for students to summarize the plot, describe character
development, or synthesize the major issues represented in a book.
1. After students have finished reading a book, have them brainstorm
five significant events in the plot (or five stages of character
2. Using cups or a compass
(or any circular object), trace six “larger” circles
on black paper and twelve “smaller: circles on white paper.
The exact sizes are not critical; the white circles should fit inside
the black ones. Cut these out.
3. Glue a white circle
to each side of each black circle.
4. Have students think
of a symbol to use as a border around the edge of one of the white
circles on each disk.
5. On the first disk,
write the title and author of the book inside the symbolic border.
On the back the student writes his or her name.
6. On the remaining five
disks, create an illustration inside the symbolic border to depict
each of the main events.
7. On the back of each
of these disks write a sentence to describe the main event and another
sentence to explain its importance to the story.
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As you can see in the
photos below, the Main Idea Belts can be strung together with yarn
or string and hung on the wall or bulletin board.
The example below on the left (from Roll of Thunder, Hear My
Cry by Mildred Taylor) shows a close-up of belt segments with
images on one side and illustrative quotes from the book on the
The example on the right shows three
main idea belts based on Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli,
A Place to Call Home by Jackie French Coller, and Homecoming
by Cynthia Voigt.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Teacher: Kirstin Gerhold, 5th grade
Columbia Elementary, Mukilteo, Washington
three books: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli,
A Place to Call Home by Jackie French Koller, and
Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
Teacher: Janine King, 6th grade
St. Joseph School, Seattle, Washington
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