Summing It Up


Reading to Learn

Amanda Etheridge



 Comprehension is one of the most important and essential aspects of reading. Summarization is a great way to assess students’ comprehension; by having, children recall the important points from a passage or story. However, until students are provided with instruction on how to summarize, many find it difficult to construct summaries on their own. This lesson will teach children how to summarize by deleting trivial and redundant information and to find or create a topic sentence that highlights the main ideas of the story.



Copies of National Geographic Online Mighty Oaks Recover After Hurricane Katrina for each student. This can be found at:

Pencil for each student

Paper for each student

Expo markers

Dry Erase Board

A bookmark for each student with the 5 summarization steps on it

           Summarization steps:

            1.    Pick out important details that are necessary to the story.

            2.    Pick out the less important or repeated ideas from the passage and eliminate them.

            3.    Highlight the important and necessary details using key words.

            4.    Pick a topic sentence

            5.    Invent a topic sentence if there is none.



1.   Introduce the lesson by asking students, “Who thinks they can tell me what the word ‘comprehension’ means?  Very good!  Comprehension is when we understand what we are reading.  Sometimes, we try to read a book so fast that we forget to pay attention to what the story is all about.  Today we are going to learn a new strategy, or helpful hint, that will help us with comprehension.  The strategy we are going to talk about today is kind of a big word, but many of you may have already heard it.  This strategy is called summarization.  Who thinks they know what this word means?  Very good!  Summarization is when we ‘sum up’ or give the important details from a story.  Using this strategy will help us to eliminate the less important information and help us remember what is important so that we can ‘comprehend’ what we are reading.”


"There are five main steps that we are going to talk about that will help us remember our new strategy of summarization."  [Write steps on board for students to see]

5 Steps to Summarization

                                        1.         Pick out important details that are necessary to the story.

                                        2.         Point out and remove less important details.

                                        3.         Choose keywords to help remember the important details.

                                        4.         Put keywords in order of when they occurred in the story.

                                        5.         Put all important details and keywords into one main topic sentence.


3.         “Okay boys and girls, now that we have talked about our strategy I think we are ready to see how it works!”  I want you to read the first passage, Elephant Camp. Elephant Camp is about Elephants that get sent to a camp and have to do something because they become very tired. I wonder what they have to do? Let's read to find out silently to yourselves, and then we will use our new strategy to summarize what we have just read.  Remember to be paying attention to the details as you read Elephant Camp, don’t just read it quickly to get done.”


 4.         After the children finish reading, work together as a class to model using the new strategy.  “We are going to use the 5 steps to summarization that we just learned.  Give the students an example of an important fact to get them thinking in the right direction.  Now, who can tell me one main fact that they remember from the article?  Very good!” [List facts given by students on one side of the board]  Be sure to model facts for the students to prompt their thinking.  Modeling:  [Fact: Elephants in India will be going to camp.]  “Now we are going to move on to step #2, who can tell me what details of this story are not important to the main topic?  Very good!”  [List facts given by students on one side of the board]  Continue to model for students.  Modeling: [Unimportant information: The name of the exact city, remembering the country will be enough.]  Continue with step #3.  “Let’s try and think of keywords that will help us remember  this article.  [List keywords on board]  Modeling: [Keywords: Elephants, working, camp, rest]  Very good!  Only two more steps to go.  Step #4, let’s organize our keywords. Say, "The word organize means to make neat or to put in order from first to last." Say, Hear is a sentence, I organized my books by abc order. Now you try. Take volunteers to give you a sentence. We will put the keywords in order by when they were mentioned in the article.  Modeling: [List keywords on board in chronological order] Now it is time for our last step, step #5.  We are going to try and combine all of these important details and keywords that we have written on the board” [point to the several lists that have been made on the board].  Encourage students that there is not a right and wrong answer.  There are several possibilities for topic sentences; all children do not have to have the same one.  Model this heavily so that they can see how to leave out information that might not be as relevant and some of the other stuff.  It may be necessary for the teacher to suggest a topic sentence.


 5.         “We have now gone through the 5 steps to summarization and I hope you all understand how to use each of these steps.  I am going to give you another article and I want you to practice using those summarization skills to summarize this article.  The article is called, “Bears and People: Learning to Live Together.”  Read the article to yourselves.  Keep in mind the things we talked about.  I am going to pass out bookmarks that have the 5 steps listed on them for you to keep to help you remember the steps.


 6.         When the children begin to finish their article, instruct them to get out paper and pencil to begin writing down responses to each of the 5 steps like we did as a class.  “I want you to go back through the article recalling the important facts, the not so important details, forming keywords, putting the keywords in order and finally creating a topic sentence that will sum up the entire article.  Remember that everyone is going to have different responses and that is ok.  Each topic sentence will be different as well, but should all include the main points from the article.  These will be collected so do your best work!  Remember those periods at the end of sentences!”


 7.         Assessment: I will collect the student’s individual responses to the 5 steps of summarization and look over them to be sure that each of the steps was considered and contemplated.  I will give them questions about the article and have them right their answers down using invented spelling. I walk around the room while students are recording their responses to ensure that they are following the steps and thinking thoroughly about their responses.





“Bears and People: Learning to Live Together.”  Ives, Sarah.  National Geographic Magazine.  22 September 2004.   .


“Elephant Camp.”  Thompson, Sharon.  National Geographic Kids Magazine.  4 May 2004.


Pressley, M., Johnson, C.J., Symons, S., McGoldrick, J.A., & Kurity, J.A. (1989).  Strategies that improve children’s memory and

        comprehension of text.  The Elementary School  Journal, 90, 3-32.

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