Become a Super Summarizer


Reading to Learn

By: Ashley Runyon


Rationale: Reading accurately and fluently is very important for children to learn. However, once this is accomplished, a child must continue on to the next step in reading. The ultimate goal of reading is comprehension, and the next step in reading is reading to learn. This lesson focuses on summarizing. Summarizing is a strategy that helps students to begin to read to learn and comprehend. This lesson will help students learn to summarize by teaching them to delete trivial and redundant information while focusing on the important parts of a text.


Materials: Class set (including one for teacher) of the Classifying Nonflowering Plants, class set (including one for teacher) of the book The Life of an Apple, blank bookmark shaped like an apple (for each student), markers (1 pack per group of students), poster with summarizing rules (1. Delete repeated or unnecessary information 2. Find important information 3. Write a topic sentence), overhead projector, pencil and paper (for each student), Assessment chart:

Did the student?



Get rid of unimportant information?



Get rid of repeated information?



Underline important information?



Write an organized topic sentence using only the important information?




1. Say: Today we're going to learn about a strategy to help us comprehend what we're reading. Who remembers what it means to comprehend? (Call on student.) That's exactly right! To comprehend means to understand the message, or main idea, of what you are reading. Sometimes comprehending is a bit tricky which is why there are strategies that can help make it easier. The strategy we're going to learn about today is called summarizing. Summarizing is being able to tell someone or remember what just happened in the text. Summarizing is very important to learn because it helps you understand and remember what you read.

2. Say: Before we learn more about how to summarize, let's review what we've been talking about recently. Who can tell me what we've been talking about in science? (Call on student.) That's right! We have been talking about life cycles. Yesterday we discussed the life of a plant. Now let’s review some of the vocabulary we’ve talked about recently. Yesterday we said that pollination occurs when a flower, or plant, is being fertilized. You could say, “The yellow sunflower outside my window was pollinated by the flower next to it.” Which of these could be pollinated? A rose, a person, or a grape? (Call on student.) That’s right! A rose can be pollinated because it is a flower that needs to be fertilized to grow and live. Finish this sentence: A bee pollinates a flower..(by spreading the pollination from one flower to the next to fertilize it.) Yesterday we also talked about germination. We said that germination is the beginning or the process of development of a seed. You could say, “The seed that fell from the apple was germinated.” Which one of these could not be germinated? A pumpkin, a stick, or a flower? (Call on student.) That’s right! A stick cannot germinate because it does not have any seeds that could grow! Finish this sentence: Apple seeds were resting in the soil and in order to germinate they… (need warmth, moist soil, light, and start to grow!)


3. Say: Now that we’ve reviewed our vocabulary, we need to go back to discussing that cool new strategy, summarizing. (Display summarizing rules poster.) You all have an apple shaped bookmark and marker on your desk. I want you to all copy down each rule as we discuss them. If you do this quietly, at the end of the lesson I will give you a few more minutes to finish decorating your bookmark. The first rule of summarizing is to delete unnecessary or repeated information. Write down the first rule on your apple. (Allow writing time.) This means that if you see a sentence or some words that is not really that important for the meaning of the text, or is something that you’ve already seen and marked as important, you can draw an X through it (if it is a separate article or hand out) or mentally delete it (if it’s in a textbook that you cannot write in). The next rule of summarizing is to find the important information. Take a minute to write that on your apple too. (Allow writing time.) This means that when you see something that you think is really important to know, you should underline it or maybe even jot down a key word or phrase. The last rule of summarizing is to write a topic sentence. Write that on your bookmark. (Allow writing time.) This part may be a bit harder, but we will all practice together in just a minute. Writing a topic sentence means that once you’ve picked out the most important parts of the text, you combine them to create a sentence. This sentence actually captures all of the important parts of a paragraph within a text. Doing this makes it easier to look back at your text and remember what each paragraph was about instead of having to read the entire paragraph again. Cool, right?


4. Pass out copies of The Life of an Apple and display a copy of the first page on the overhead projector. Say: Now we're going to practice summarizing as a class. Let's look at the first paragraph of our story:


Apples are fruits that grow on apple trees. Like all fruits, apples contain seeds. When you cut one open, you can see the seeds in the core of the apple. Each of these seeds could grow into a whole new apple tree, in the right conditions.


Okay, now I want everyone to follow along and pay very close attention to how I follow the rules we previously discussed. Let’s look at the first sentence: Apples are fruits that grow on apple trees. Do you think that it is really important to know where an apple is grown? (Discuss.) Sometimes it is important to know what something is, but we all already know an apple is a fruit. I will put an X through fruit but underline grow on apple trees. Let’s keep reading: Like all fruits, apples contain seeds. I need to know that all fruits have seeds or that apples do? Looking at the first sentence, it seems like knowing just about the apples is important. I’ll make an X through like all fruits because I don’t think we really need to know about all fruits if the title of the book is about apples. Apples contain seeds. That sounds really important so I think I’ll underline it! (Continue reading.) When you cut one open, you can see the seeds in the core of the apple. I think it is important to know that the seeds are on the inside of the apple, but the extra details on cutting one open is not needed. I will put an X through that but underline seeds and core of the apple. All of the other words are just trivial, or not needed, information. Each of these seeds could grow into a whole new apple tree, in the right conditions. Let’s look at this sentence. Is it important to know that each of the seeds could grow into an apple tree in the right conditions? I think it is important to know that the seeds could be grown into an apple tree but under the right conditions could be something discussed later.


So now that we have applied rules 1 and 2 of summarizing to this paragraph, I am going to demonstrate how to apply the third rule to create a topic sentence using the parts I underlined. I underlined grow on apple trees, contain seeds, seeds in the core of the apple, and grow into whole new tree. Now I need to put all of this information into a sentence that makes sense. Since I have seeds already, I can put an X through one of them. Now I have: Apples grow on apple trees and contain seeds in the core of the apple. Since the last part is not repeated we need to add that is. I’ll change my topic sentence to: Apples grow on trees and contain seeds in the core can grow into a whole new tree. Does everyone see and understand what I just did? We will continue on the next few pages and summarize together until you all feel comfortable. (Summarize the next 3 pages together.)Does anyone have any questions? After doing this together, why do you think something is important or not important? You’re right! Something is not important if it is an example, an adjective, an opinion, a repetition (like that of the apples in the previous text), or comparison. What is important? Correct, the factual point about a topic is definitely the most important thing for summarizing! Great job!


5. Say: Now I am going to let you all practice summarizing on your own. You will be doing this with a new book, Classifying Nonflowering Plants. Booktalk: Have you ever wondered how the world was sorted? Whether it was animals, plants, or the environment around you? Did you know that there are over 30,000 living species of nonflowering plants? The book you are about to read will discuss the ins and outs of all different types of amazing plants. Aren’t you excited? Great! Now, for this book, I want each of you to go through each paragraph and break it down like we just did together. Make sure you follow the rules for summary and then change the order around in your topic sentence if necessary so that it makes sense. I want each of you to write a topic sentence for every paragraph in the book. Look back at the ones we did together on the board if you need help. When you are finished, put your paper inside the book with the topic sentences and turn it in. Make sure you are writing in pencil! Once you turn it in, you may decorate your bookmark. Everyone will be given time to decorate your bookmark, so please do not speed through the assignment just to have time to color. Are there any questions?


Assessment: I will review each student's topic sentences as well as the markings on each of their books. I will use the assessment checklist for each student listed above to know whether each student followed the rules and understood how to summarize accordingly. Their sentences for each paragraph may vary slightly in the wording but the content should be the same.



Wheeler, Mary Kathryn. Soaring Summarizer.

Stickland, Jessica. Summarizing Monkey Business.


Galko, Francine. Classifying Nonflowering Plants. Chicago: Heinemann, 2004.

Hibbert, Clare. The Life of an Apple. Chicago: Raintree, 2004

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