Using About-Point to Awaken the Main Idea

Wake Up Time!
Bruce Murray


Rationale: Summarization is one of the two most powerful strategies for comprehending text. An effective method of summarizing is called about-point, which asks two critical questions about the text: a) What is the text about? This is usually an easy question, and it identifies the topic that becomes the subject of the topic sentence. b) What is the main point the writer is making about that topic? This is a harder question. Since the author usually makes several points, the reader must “superordinate” the points, i.e., find an umbrella term that covers all the main points the author is making. The main point becomes the predicate of the topic sentence.


Materials: Individual copies of an article written for kids on sleepwalking from (URL below).

Pencil and paper for each student.

           Summarization checklist and comprehension quiz (below).



1. Explain to children why summarization is important: When we read a text, we would spend all day trying to remember all the words and all the details. Good readers don’t try to remember everything. They use summarization strategies to remember only the important points the author is making about the topic. In that way, they reduce a text that may have hundreds or thousands of words to a compact gist that is easy to remember.

2. The best way to summarize is called about-point. In about-point, you ask yourself an easy question and a tough question, and you use your answers to make a topic sentence. The easy question is "What is the text about?" The tough question is "What is the main point the writer is making about that topic?" To answer this question, you have to think of an umbrella term for all the important points the writer is telling you.

3. In a few minutes, I’m going to show you how I’d do about-point with a paragraph on sleepwalking, which is the article you are going to be reading today. Have you ever seen someone sleepwalking? Are they really asleep? How can we help them not to hurt themselves? Can sleepwalkers learn to stay in bed to sleep? These are some of the questions you will be learning to answer today.

4. Let’s talk about an important vocabulary word you’ll be reading: occasional. Occasional means every once in a while, not all the time. Many times we use the form occasionally. For example, “We occasionally go out to eat at Red Lobster.” We don’t go regularly, but we do go every once in a while. What is something that you do occasionally? Finish this sentence: On the way to school, we occasionally see….”

5. Here is a paragraph from the story:


Not all sleep is the same every night. We experience some deep, quiet sleep and some active sleep, which is when dreams happen. You might think sleepwalking would happen during active sleep, but a person isn't physically active during active sleep. Sleepwalking usually happens in the first few hours of sleep in the stage called slow-wave or deep sleep.


This paragraph is about sleep, but what important points is the writer making? There are different kinds of sleep: deep sleep and active sleep when dreams happen. Surprisingly, sleepwalking takes place in deep sleep. Putting these points together, I can make a topic sentence: Sleep can be deep or active, and sleepwalking takes place in deep sleep.

6. Now I want you to use about-point on a paragraph:


Sleepwalkers' eyes are open, but they don't see the same way they do when they're awake and often think they're in different rooms of the house or different places altogether. Sleepwalkers tend to go back to bed on their own and they won't remember it in the morning.


What’s this paragraph about? Yes, sleepwalkers. What are the main points the author is making about sleepwalkers? Correct, they have their eyes open but they aren’t seeing what’s really around them. Yes, another point is that they go back to bad without remembering they ever got up. How could we combine those ideas in one sentence beginning: Sleepwalkers…? Sleepwalkers walk with open eyes but don’t see, and they usually go back to bed without knowing they were up.

7. Now I’d like you to finish reading the article and use about-point to make a topic sentence for each paragraph. When you are finished, you will have made a good summary of the article, which will help you remember important facts about sleepwalking. Don’t summarize examples or trivia; they are written only to help you understand the main ideas. You are writing a short version of the article in your own words, including only the important ideas to remember. And to make sure you remember, we will have a quiz after everyone finishes writing.


Assessment: Collect each student’s summary of the article, and evaluate the summarization using the following checklist:


__ Collected important information

__ Ignored trivia and examples in summary.

__ Significantly reduced the text from the original

__ Sentences brought ideas together from each paragraph

__ Sentences organized coherently into essay form.



1. Does sleepwalking take place in deep sleep or in active sleep?

2. If you looked at a sleepwalker’s face, what would you notice?

3. What might be a cause of sleepwalking?

4. What would be a sign that a sleepwalker needs to see a doctor?

5. Why could sleepwalking be dangerous?

6. What might a doctor recommend for a frequent sleepwalker?

7. What are a couple of ways you help yourself avoid sleepwalking?

8. How can you help keep a sleepwalker from hurting himself or herself?

9. How could a grownup help get a sleepwalker back to bed?


Reference: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD (reviewer), Sleepwalking

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