Planting Seeds for Summarizing!


Courtney Hillman

Reading to Learn


Our goal for readers is for them to comprehend the information they are reading. Summarizing is a strategy that aids students in comprehending. Summarizing means to recall the main ideas in a text and put them together. This lesson will model for students how to summarize and give them strategies to help them with the summarizing process. The students will practice and be assessed using a checklist of summarizing steps.



-Class set of copies of “Why do we need trees?”

-Summarization checklist on poster board: delete unimportant information; delete repeated information; select a topic; write an inclusive, accurate, and simple topic sentence to summarize the passage

-Summarizing checklists for each student

-Overhead excerpt from “What is the rainforest of the sea?”



1.  Say: "Today we are going to learn how to summarize an article. We will do this using the main ideas and important details within the article. We use summarizing to help us comprehend what we have read. Does anyone know what comprehend means? Comprehend means to understand something. Summarizing is a useful strategy that will help us with this.” [Review with students the summarization checklist (delete unimportant information; delete repeated information; select a topic; write an inclusive, accurate, and simple topic sentence to summarize the passage)] “First, we need to delete unimportant information because that information is not part of the main idea, which is what we need for summarizing. Next, we need to delete repeated information because we only need the information once. Then, we need to figure out what the main idea, or topic, is for the article. Lastly, we need to write a sentence that will help us summarize what we have read. Depending on the length of the article, you may need to write more than one sentence. You will write your own topic sentence, then use the left over information to add necessary details.”


2. Say: “Before reading, we need to go over some of the vocabulary that we will run across in our article. A “coast” is the shoreline of the ocean. Australia is a country and a continent that is completely surrounded with a coast because it is practically a large island. “Diverse” means that everything is different. For example, we have a very diverse classroom with students from different places. A “tourist destination” is a place that people like to visit. In America, New York City is a tourist destination because many people travel there for vacations. “Erosion” is when water washes up on rocks, for example, and causes the rocks to become smaller from the pressure of the waves. Our passage will tell us that coral reefs help prevent shorelines from eroding.”


3. Say: "Let me show you how I would do this with an excerpt from an article. Because my article is short, I am going to work on creating the topic sentence (or main idea) only. As I read, I will pay attention to what information we read that we need to comprehend the topic of the article and underline it. Usually, important information is mentioned throughout an article and unimportant information are details that explain the topic but are not necessary for comprehension.” [Excerpt: Situated in the Coral Sea, just off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and stretching for more than 1,400 miles, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system. It is a complex, biologically diverse ecosystem that serves many important roles such as providing food and shelter to fish and thousands of invertebrates, protecting the shoreline from erosion and adding to many local economies by being a popular tourist destination] [Have the poster board checklist where all students can see and follow along] Say: “I first need to delete unimportant information; I will cross out that information. Let’s see the fact that the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is 1,400 miles long is interesting, but it is not extremely important. We’ll remove that. The list of roles the GBR has is good detail, but it is not part of the main idea, which is what we’re looking for when summarizing. Next, we need to delete repeated information. I don’t see any of that in here since it’s a short section. Then, I need to figure out the topic of this. I know it’s about the GBR, but what about it? What’s the big idea? It tells us about the GBR and the roles it plays. So, for my last step, making a topic sentence, I would say, ‘The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system that has many important roles.’ That was the main thing we learned about the GBR from this article excerpt.”

4. Say: "Now let's summarize the next paragraph together. We are going to underline important information and cross out unimportant information and repeated information as I did previously. Remember to pay attention to what sounds important and helps us to understand." [Work through this in the same way as the second procedure. Article: Because they represent such amazing biodiversity, coral reefs are often called the “rainforests of the sea.” The Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate rainforest of the sea. It is home to 4,000 types of mollusks (clams and other shelled creatures), 1,500 species of fish, 1,500 different sponges, 800 species of echinoderms (star fish, sea urchins and so on), 500 varieties of seaweed, 360 species of hard coral, 200 bird species, more than 115 species of butterflies and more than 30 species of marine mammals.]


Topic: The Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate rainforest of the sea.

Why? It is home to many different things.

Summary: The Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate rainforest of the sea because it is home to many different species.


5. Say: “Now it’s time for you to try it out on your own! You have done so great as a group and we’ve practiced a few times, so now you get to put your skills to the test. Have you ever wondered why we have trees? Why are they important? Today, you’re going to learn why! This article has two main paragraphs, so I want you to write a topic sentence that summarizes each paragraph. One sentence for paragraph one and one sentence for paragraph two. Remember to cross out unimportant and deleted information. Also, underline parts that seem important and are necessary to understand the article. Use what you’ve underlined to create your topic sentence as we did before.”


6. Assessment:

To assess the students’ summarizing abilities, I will use the chart we used in class to take note of how well they summarized the “Why do we need trees?” article.



When summarizing, did the student…



Delete unimportant information?




Delete repeated information?




Select a topic?




Write an inclusive, accurate, and simple topic sentence to summarize the passage?






-Shelby Jordan, Speedy Summarizers!

-“Why do we need trees?” Curiosity Corner (online) from Discovery
-“What is the rainforest of the sea?” Curiosity Corner (online) form Discovery.

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