Sum It Up


  Reading to Learn

Kasey Shepherd


Rationale: For students to become skillful and effective readers, they must gain the skills to comprehend what they read.  Students must first practice summarization skills to be able to comprehend main ideas in their reading.  This lesson will teach students to summarize passages by picking out important statements, deleting redundant information, and organizing the main points into a summary.

Materials: Class set of Twister and Space Quest - National Geographic Articles for Kids; Class set of highlighters, pencils, and paper; projector; dry erase markers; Poster pointing out the 3 important summarizing steps: 1. Pick out and highlight important details; 2. Mark out the unimportant details; 3. Identify main idea and summarize the important parts.

Checklist for summarizing:  



Did the student…



Pick out and highlight important details.



Mark out the unimportant or repeated details.



Identify main idea and summarize the important parts.



1. "Today we are going to learn a new skill that is going to make us become effective readers.  This new skill is going to help us better comprehend what we are reading.  We know that when we comprehend we understand what it is we are reading.  The new skill we will be working with today is summarization.  Can someone raise their hand and tell me what that means?  Good job, that's right.  When you summarize, you remove the unimportant statements from the text so that you are only left with the most important ideas.  Once we have all of our important parts, we can form sentences about the main ideas in what we are reading."

2. "Here is a list of key words that you will need to know today for your reading so that you can fully understand what the text is saying: tornado, atmosphere, radar, and supercells."

Explain: Let's look at what the word tornado means. A tornado is a spinning funnel of air that touches the ground.


Use: If the tornado would have caught him, the spinning column of air could have tossed him into his truck like a toy.  The meteorologist was able to track the tornado during the storm.


Ask: Which one of these is more like a tornado: A spinning funnel or a lightning strike?  High circular winds or high temperatures?


Finish the Sentence: If the storm chaser placed weather tools in a tornado's path,...

Possible completion: 

...the tornado's spinning winds could roar right over them.


3. "Now we are going to learn the steps of summarization. First you will pick out and highlight important details, then you will mark out the unimportant details, and finally you will identify the main idea and summarize the important parts.  Now I am going to pass out a highlighter, pencil, and article to every student." Model: "We are going to work on summarization together using the article Twister." 

Booktalk: Josh Wurman's heart raced as he sped through town. Howling winds rocked his truck. Rain slammed against the windshield. Boom! Thunder cracked overhead. Behind him, a terrifying tornado roared.  What will happen to Josh?  Will he find shelter before the tornado finds him?  Let's read to find out. 

"First, I will pick out the important details in the first few sentences (end of paragraph one and the second paragraph--the first paragraph is more of an introduction or booktalk for the students, so we will skip the majority of this paragraph) of the article by asking: What is the main idea?  I see the word tornado in bold print, so I know that this article is going to be about a tornado.  I also see that this article is about a man named Josh Wurman.  I am going to highlight this information and keep reading.  Next, I see the word meteorologist.  A meteorologist is someone who chases a severe storm.  This is also an important main idea.  So, I am going to highlight this information too.  Now that I have highlighted the important information, I am going to look for the trivial information that I can cross out.  The phase "That's why he was out on the stormy night in Arkansas" is not a necessary piece of information for my summary.  So, I am going to cross this out.  The next few sentences are also not important for my main idea sentence, so I am going to cross out everything else out in this paragraph.  Now, I am going to organize the important facts that I highlighted.  For the first few sentences, I will write: Josh Wurman is a meteorologist who chases severe storms like tornadoes.  This is my summarizing statement." 

"Now, let's work on doing this together.  Let's all look at the third paragraph.  Can someone tell me what to do first?  Good, we are going to highlight the important information.  We see the word tornado again.  Let's highlight that word.  How did we know that this was important?  Very good, because we know that our article is about tornadoes, and there must be more information about tornadoes in this paragraph. What else is important?  Good, let's highlight that information.  (Hurt nine people; damaged 200 homes).  Let's read a little more.  I think another important phrase is that "tornadoes are some of the most dangerous storms" because this describes something about tornadoes. So everybody highlight this piece of information.  Now let's cross out all of the trivial information.  For example, the first two sentences are not important for our purpose of summarizing.  Now, see if you can find something else to cross out.  Now, let's come up with our main idea sentence for this paragraph.  For the third paragraph we will write: Tornadoes are very dangerous storms that have been known to hurt several people and destroy many homes."

4. "Now, I want you to try to summarize all on your own.  Try reading the fourth paragraph silently.  Make sure you find the most important information and mark out the unimportant ideas." [Go over this paragraph once the students have had the chance to complete the task.]

5. Continue to practice these three steps until the class fully understands the concept of summarizing. 

6. "Now, I want to see if you can work on summarizing a different article.  Your new article is called Space Quest.  Remember to follow the three steps of summarization while you are reading." 

Booktalk: This boy had been waiting for this moment for years.  He was lying inside the space shuttle Columbia and was waiting for it to take off.  Six seconds before lift off the engines were roaring and rumbling loudly.  Columbia finally blasted off into the sky and this could have been the best day of his life.  Until eight minutes later everything went silent.  Let's read more to find out what happens to the space shuttle. 

7. Assessment: Ask: "Why was the boy so excited?"  "How did the boy describe space?" (Two comprehension questions.) Read the summaries on Space Quest for accuracy. Use the checklist to see where student's progress is with their understanding of summarization. 


Crenshaw, Beth. Sum It Up, Sum It Up, Keep those Main Ideas Up.

Thomas, Don. "Space Quest". Web. 15 Apr 2012.

Wedner, Diane. "Twister". Web. 15 Apr 2012.


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