Reading is a Flower Bed… Dig for the Main Idea

Linzee Garrison


Rationale: Comprehension is the main goal of reading. After fluency is reached, students should move on to comprehension and reading to learn. As students move in to the upper grades, they are presented with more difficult text and unfamiliar subjects. This lesson will focus on summarizing, a strategy to help students in reading to learn. Students will learn strategies to omit trivial information and summarize information in their own terms.


-Class set of A “Hoppy” Discovery by Anna Prokos

-White board or poster with summarization rules (1.Delete trivial information 2. Delete repeated information 3. Select a topic 4. Form a topic sentence)

-Paper for each student

-Pencils for each student

-Highlighter for each student

-Picture of twins

-Identical pencils

-Pen and pencil that are not similar


Did the student?                                         Yes             No

Delete unimportant information

Delete repeated information

Highlight important information

Select a topic

Write an inclusive and simple topic sentence



1. SAY: Does anyone know what summarization is? (Student response.) It is a process in which we cut out trivial, or unimportant and repeated, information. What does it mean for something to be unimportant? Repeated? (Student response.) Exactly! We don’t need that extra stuff to understand! If you tell me your big blue cat got sick. I don’t need to know that it is big and blue, the fact it is sick is important.  If you tell me several times your cat got sick, that is unnecessary. I should understand the first time. When we delete the trivial information, we can focus on the important information that will help us to learn and be better readers. Think of the information as being a garden. Has anyone ever helped weed out a flower bed? This is when you get rid of the unwanted plants and keep the pretty flowers! We only want the pretty, important information. Expository texts often contain a lot of unnecessary information and unfamiliar words, so summarization can be very helpful.

2. SAY: Let’s look at the unfamiliar words in this article. (Have everyone look over the article). Highlight these unfamiliar words! (Teacher will pre-select the words: species, urban, trekked, and identical. Discuss the definitions.)

Species- a type or specific kind of animal

Urban- relating to or the characteristic of a city or town

Trekked- journey made on foot

Identical- alike in every detail

3. SAY: Why do you think it is important to understand these unfamiliar words before we read the text? (Student response.) Understanding these words helps us to better understand the article! How does this help us to better understand? (Student response.) Yes! It helps because we understand what we’re talking about! If you had never seen a dog or didn’t know what a dog was, and I tell you about my dog and his long tail, you may be confused! You may think a dog is a person and want to know why he has a long tail. I chose identical as our important word because the article discusses two frog species that are identical. Does anyone know what identical means? (Student response). Does anyone have a twin or know someone who is a twin? Some twins look exactly alike! They are called identical twins. If I have two pieces of paper that are the same color and size, they are identical (hold up two identical sheets of paper). I would say these pieces of paper are identical! If I had two sheets of paper that are different (hold up a sheet of notebook paper and a sticky note) like these, I could not say they are identical. Can anyone tell me what the differences are? (Student response). (Point to your shirt and pants) Could I say my shirt and pants are identical? (Point to your eyes) Could I say my eyes are identical?

(Hold up a pen and a pencil). The pen and pencil are not _______.

(Hold up two identical pencils) These pencils are ___________.

 Now, how do we summarize? Follow these steps (point to white board or poster; discuss)! What is a topic? (Student response.) A topic is what something is about. A topic sentence is a sentence that covers the main idea.

4.SAY: In this article, we’re going to read  A “Hoppy” Discovery. Did you know that there are two types of frogs that are a lot alike?  Almost like twins in a big city! We will have to read to learn about them!

5. First Paragraph:

Usually, scientists search rainforests, ocean habitats, or other remote spots on Earth to find new plant and animal species. So when a new species of frog was found hopping around urban New York, you could say scientists croaked with delight

First, I want to delete the trivial information. This includes unimportant facts. How can you tell what is trivial? If you can still understand the article without the information, it is probably ok to delete it. Let’s look at the first paragraph. Hmm, I see some trivial information. In the first sentence all we need to know is frogs are usually found in remote places, so I’ll leave out the details of rainforests and oceans. could say scientists croaked with delight. That is unnecessary as it does not provide me with any information. 

Next, I am going to decide what the most important details are. I see that a new species was found. I also see that frogs are normally found in remote areas, but these were found in New York.

Now, I will select a topic. What does the first paragraph provide me with information about? It provides details about the new species of frog being found. So I will choose a new frog species as my topic.

Finally, I will make a topic sentence. The topic sentence should be inclusive but simple.
A new was species of frog was surprisingly discovered in New York.

6. SAY: Now we will practice our new skill! We will split into groups of four.  I will pass out some articles from Time For Kids. I want you to read the article to yourself. Individually, highlight the important information and underline trivial information. Select a topic, and then write a one to two sentence summary of the article. When everyone has completed, share your topic sentences and discuss why you chose that as your topic sentence.

6. SAY: Once we are in our groups, share what you did to summarize your articles.

7. Share summaries with the class.

Assessment: Students will be assessed on their topic sentences. I will use a checklist to assess students’ understanding of comprehension. Four of the five checks possible must be earned from the checklist below. I will use this information to decide if students have mastered summarization or need more work.

Did the student?                                         Yes             No

Delete unimportant information

Delete repeated information

Highlight important information

Select a topic

Write an inclusive and simple topic sentence



Return to Awakenings Index