Let's not Make a Stink About Summarizing!
Reading to Learn

Marybeth Miller


Rationale: Once students have learned to read fluently and comprehend text as they read, it is time to read to learn. One of the most important goals for readers is to gain comprehension while they read. A skill that helps readers to comprehend is learning to summarize. Knowing how to summarize means students can pick out important facts and details from a text and create an overall meaning that the text is trying to convey. Through this lesson, the teacher will model how to summarize, guide students through summarization, and allow individual practice with summarization while using rules.



-Pencils (one per student)

-Paper (one per student)

-Highlighters (one per student)

-Article "Tiger Cuddles with Apes" (one per student)

-Document camera, Overhead, SMART Board, or white board and dry erase marker

-Summarization rules (Written or displayed where all the students can see): 1. Decide what the topic is. 2. Delete opinions, examples, and descriptions. 3. Decide what the point is by generalizing details. 4. State a topic sentence.

- Written or displayed where all students can see: Questions to ask yourself while you read: Why was this story written? Why did the author write this story? What or who is the main subject? What are some of the major facts about the main subject? (Have questions written on poster board so all students can see and refer to).

-Vocabulary words displayed on the board: myth, waddling, rabies

-Comprehension questions




Step 1: Today we are going to read an article and learn to summarize what we read. What does it mean to summarize? Right, it means that while we read we will pay attention to important facts and details and use those important ideas to create a brief statement or summary about the article. Knowing how to summarize will come in handy when someone asks you what a book or article was about. 


Step 2: Before we learn and practice summarizing an article, first I need to review some vocabulary words that we will see while reading. The words that we will see in the article are: myth, waddling, rabies


Let's look at the word waddling or in the verb form it would be waddle. Waddling means to walk with short steps, swaying or rocking back and forth from side to side (demonstrate what it looks like). A lot of animals waddle when they walk on two legs.


A fox that is running is not waddling. A penguin that is walking along the ice would be waddling.


Which one of these is like waddling: a dog walking on two legs or a dog walking on all four? A bird walking on a limb or a cat walking on a limb?


Finish this sentence: To waddle like a penguin means to…


Possible completion: … take short steps in a side to side motion.


Step 3: Now let's learn to summarize a text. Let's look at some general summarization rules (have them written for all to see). First, we need to decide what the topic is. Next, we need to delete opinions, examples, and descriptions. Then, we need to decide what the point is by generalizing details. Last, we need to state a topic sentence. If we keep these steps in our mind, we will be able to summarize any text! Now let's look at an article entitled "Wild Things: Skunks and Skunk Spray" written by authors at kidzworld.com. In order to know what is important in a text and what is not, here are some questions to ask yourself while you read: Why was this story written? Why did the author write this story? What or who is the main subject? What are some of the major facts about the main subject? (Have questions written on poster board so all students can see and refer to).


Article Talk: This article is about skunks and how they are well known for their stinky spray. Skunks can be found in numerous environments. There are different kinds of skunks and they all have different aspects about their appearance that makes this different. There are different warnings to let you know if a skunk is about to spray but how far can a skunk's spray go? Let's read and find out!

(Pass out article for students).


Now, I will demonstrate how to summarize the first section of the article written under the title (display article with overhead or document camera). As I cross out information, you should follow me and do the same on your own copy.


I'll cross out unimportant details, then underline important ideas & put it into 1 sentence. (Read the passage aloud)

Skunks are well known for their nasty smelling spray. They're small furry animals about the size of a cat that belong to the weasel and ferret family. Skunks easily adapt to most living conditions so you'll see them sniffing grass in the country or waddling behind some garbage cans in the city.


Now, I am going to go back through the passage and put a line through any information that I don't think is important. We know that skunks are known for the nasty smelling. We don't need to know that they are furry animals but knowing that they are the size of a cat is important. We don't need to know that they can easily adapt to different atmospheres but knowing that they can live in the country and city is important and tells us that they can live in numerous places. Now that I have crossed out information, I am going to underline what I think is important.


Summary: Skunks are everywhere, cat-sized, and known for spraying.


Step 4: Let's try summarizing the paragraph under the subtitle "Spotted Skunks?" (Read the section aloud).

Not all skunks have a white stripe down their back. There are four different kinds of skunks that live in North America and Europe. There's the Spotted, Hognosed, Hooded and the Striped skunks. The Striped skunk (the most common) and the Spotted are named after the look of their fur. The Hooded skunk has so much hair around its neck that it looks like it's wearing a hood. The Hognosed has a nose that looks like a hog's nose.


What is the big idea from this paragraph? (topic) Not all skunks have a white stripe down their back.


Why is this important? There are different kinds of skunks and they all look different. 


Summary: There are different kinds of skunks that don't all have a white strip but rather have different characteristics.


Step 5: Now let's practice our summarizing skills with the rest of the article.  While you read the remaining paragraphs in the article, I want you to stop after reading each paragraph and summarize the paragraph into one sentence. While figuring out your summary, I want you to cross out any extra information that you don't need. I also want you to underline the important facts. I want you to do just as I did over the document camera. There are three paragraphs left in the article, so when you get done, you should have three summarizing sentences.



Step 6: (Assessing Comprehension) Okay, now that you have all read the article and summarized each paragraph, let's talk about some of the things that we learned from the article. (Ask the following questions. There are multiple answers to each so ensure that different students answer)

Where can skunks be found?

What does some skunks look like? What characteristics can they have?

In what ways do skunks warn you that they are about to spray?

What are some reasons why you may see a skunk out during the day?

How far can skunks spray reach? And under what condition can the spray go even farther? 



I will assess my students' summarization skills by taking up the summaries that they completed on their own. I will review their summaries by using the following rubric:


When summarizing, did the student…



Deletion of unimportant information?

Deletion of repeated information (if applicable)?

Organized items around a main idea?

Selected a topic?

Wrote a simple topic sentence, including important facts to summarize the passage?





East, Morgane. "Summing it Up with Summarization."



Kidz World. "Wild Things: Skunks and Skunk Spray."         

          http://www.kidzworld.com/article/2112-wild-things-skunks-and-skunk-   spray#

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