“Summarizing a Meal”

Reading to Learn

Elizabeth Sherman


This lesson is written for third grade students to learn the strategy of summarizing. There is often an overwhelming amount of text for students to read. Some of it is unnecessary. This skill will teach students to determine the main point of their reading and to eliminate details of lesser importance. Students will benefit from this strategy in reading texts for reading class and also with expository texts in other classes. For this lesson, the students will be using the text “Food Around the World” by Patricia Lakin. Students will learn to decide what information is trivial or redundant and identify the main idea of the passage. Students will also learn to construct a sentence that identifies the main point of the passage. This is an important strategy for students to learn so that they can recall the most important information from lengthy text read. If students are better able to get recall and understanding of what they have read, they will be better able to answer short answer and multiple-choice questions about their reading. The students will learn how to strategize through watching the teacher model the skill on the board with a passage from the text. They will summarize with the teacher as a class discussing the passage and then finally the students will summarize a passage on their own that will be turned in for assessment. Through the modeling and practicing of the summarizing technique, students will learn the valuable skill of summarizing on their own.


Materials: For this lesson, the teacher will need the book “Food Around The World” by Patricia Lakin, enough photo copies of pages 3,28, and 29 from the text “Food Around the World” by Patricia Lakin for each student and teacher, enough yellow highlighters for each student to have one, enough red pens for each student to have one, and a transparency of page 3 from the text “Food Around the World” by Patricia Lakin, projector, and transparency markers for teacher’s use, and an image of Frosted Flakes cereal, and then an image of the off-brand Frosted Flakes to explain the new vocabulary word “authentic”, and enough assessment checklists for the teacher to complete on each student’s individual work.



Say: “ Good morning students! Today we are going to learn a new strategy to use when we read. We are going to learn how to summarize. If you know how to summarize, you will be able to remember what you read a lot better. Does anyone know what summarizing means? (Give time for students to respond). Yes, Josh that is correct. Summarizing is when you read a lot of words and are able to take out just what is important. When you summarize, you’re able to identify the main idea, key words, and topic of what you just read. Using this strategy will help you to be able to recall what you read which will help you to be able to answer questions on your reading.”


Say: “ I saw some words that are new in this text. Throughout this text there are some words like: “authentic”, “cultivate”, “shellfish”, “delicacy”, “coarsely”, and “cacao beans” that will be important for you to know the meaning of in order to grasp the message of the text. One word I especially want to talk to you about is the word “authentic”. (Hold up the two images of the Frosted Flakes and the off-brand Frosted Flakes while explaining). One of these cereals is the original Frosted Flakes. It was the first type of cereal to be made. This box of cereal (point to the off-brand) is a copy of the first. It is still frosted flakes, but it is not the first or the real cereal. Authentic means the real thing. If something is authentic it is not fake or copied. Taco Bell doesn’t make authentic Mexican food so I always eat at a real Mexican restaurant, like Tino’s. I got a ring out of a gumball machine. Do you think it is a fake ring or an authentic diamond ring? (Allow time for students to respond). Yes, Jacob that is correct. It is not an authentic ring, it is a fake. Is a painting signed by the artist authentic or fake?(Allow time for students to respond). Yes, Claire, I have an authentic painting because it is the real thing. It is the original painting, signed by the artist. Try to finish this sentence: I went to Italy and ate authentic Italian food; it was authentic because……(Allow time for students to finish the sentence). That’s a great sentence Ben. I went to Italy and ate authentic Italian food; it was authentic because it was real Italian food. Now you all should have a better idea of what “authentic” means. So as you read “Food Around the World” and see the word “authentic” you will know what it means.”



Say: “All right, I want to show you all how to summarize. There are some steps we need to remember when we summarize. The first step is to delete trivial and unimportant information. The second step is to delete information that is repeated. The third step I want you to do when summarizing is to identify important information. I like to mark out sentences that are unimportant or repeated with a red pen. While I read, I also highlight important information with a highlighter. Then after reading a passage I do the fourth step of summarizing. The fourth step is to write a summarizing sentence on what I just read. This sentence should let me know what the main idea of the passage was. This will be helpful because I can also look back and read it and remember what that passage was about.”


Say: “Think about a menu. When you go to a restaurant a menu is like a summary. It summarizes what each meal looks and tastes like in a couple of short sentences. It only tells you what you really need to know about the food you’re going to order. We are going to be using a book all about food from different places around the world. We will be reading “Foods Around the World” by Patricia Lakin. Every day we eat food and so do people in other places around the world. We all eat different things. A lot of times our culture and environment play a huge part in what we eat. Let’s read together to discover what foods some countries are known for eating and then let’s practice summarizing.”



Say: “I want you all to look at the board and watch as I read this passage and summarize it. What is on the board is from page three of our “Food Around the Word” book. It is the introduction and is going to tell us about what we are about to read. I want to show you how I would summarize it. So listen and watch carefully as I summarize this passage. “In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain to find a shorter route to the West Indies. He was searching for gold, but also for spices. More than 200 years before Columbus set out, Marco Polo left Italy and traveled to the Far East, reaching China. He returned with foods and spices from the different areas he visited.” Hmm… so who was that passage about? I saw the names Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo. They were both explorers. Are they both important details? Well, what was the passage about? The passage is about how food is valuable. Why do I think that? Because two guys took long dangerous trips, halfway around the world, looking for it. This passage mentioned two explorers and discussed what they accomplished. I am going to highlight their names because I think they are important. I am also going to highlight the words “traveled” and “returned with new foods and spices” because they are key words. The part of the passage that says, “searching for gold” isn’t important. Gold is not what this passage is about. I am going to cross that part out. Also, I don’t think the part of the first sentence, “to find a shorter route” is important. Does it give me key information? No. The main idea is that two explorers found food and spices important enough to travel to find them, not if they took short cuts or not. That part of the sentence seems like trivial information to me. So I’m going to take my red pen and cross that part of the sentence out. What did I learn from these sentences? What was the main idea I took away? It talked about how Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus traveled long ways around the world and brought back spices and food. I think I will make my summative sentence about that. This is my summative sentence, “Food is so valuable that Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus searched and traveled the world for it”. There that will help me recall what I just read. Did you notice as I read I used my highlighter to highlight important information? I asked myself if the information was important or trivial. I also looked to see if information was repeated. Did you see how if I thought information was unimportant I crossed it out with my red pen? Also, when I finished reading I asked myself what the main idea, key words, and topic of what I read was. Then, I wrote a sentence to summarize what I read.”


Say: “All right, now that I have summarized this passage and we have learned what “authentic” means, I think we are ready to read and summarize together. Let’s look at the next passage on page three and try summarizing together. One of the main points of this passage is food. So as we read, we want to ask ourselves, “What is this passage saying about food?” I want you all to go through and read this paragraph and highlight what you think is important. Also, remember to cross out what is trivial and repetitive. (Allow time for students to work). All right, let’s take some time to discuss what we all did. (Lead a discussion with class sharing what everyone highlighted and crossed-out. The teacher should mark on her own transparency of the reading what the class decides to highlight and crossed-out. The teacher should also ask students why they highlighted what they highlighted. Ask students why they thought something was important). Generally, something is trivial if it is very specific. To help determine if something is the main idea ask yourself, “ Is this discussed through the whole passage? If this part of the passage was taken out would it matter?” Now, here is the last step of summarizing. We need to write a summarizing sentence. What is this passage about? What is the main point? How would I summarize what we just read? Let’s all take some time to write our own sentences that will summarize what we read. (Give students time). Does anyone want to share their sentence? (Discussion time for students to share sentences). Those are all great summarization sentences. My sentence was, “Every country’s foods are influenced by foreigners introducing new spices and foods long ago.” Now in the passage it talked about how traders, invaders, and explorers all influenced other countries’ foods. Traders, invaders, and explorers all have one thing in common. They are all foreigners to the country that they traveled to. In order to simplify my sentence, I categorized them all as foreigners. Now, I can look back and read my simplified sentence and remember what the passage I just read was all about.”


Say: Now, it is your turn to practice on your own. (Pass out copies of pages 28 and 29 from “Food Around the World” to students). I want you all to summarize these pages using the steps we have discussed. Can anyone name those steps? (Call on students). Yes, Rachel that is right. You first need to read the passage and mark out with your red pen information that you think is unimportant. Then you need to mark-out information that is repetitive. The next step is to highlight in the passage what is important and the main idea. After you have done this, you all need to write a summarizing sentence. When you write this sentence you need to ask yourself what was the main idea and topic of this passage? All right, now everyone read and summarize quietly on your own. When you are finished you can turn in your work. Don’t forget to write your name on it!”



The teacher will be able to assess individual students’ learning to see if they have learned the summarizing strategy from their responses to questions on the text, and also from the assessment checklist on their individual work summarizing pages 28-29 on their own. The teacher will use the checklist to see if students can discern what is important and unimportant from the text based on what material they highlighted and scratched out, and from the summative sentences on the passage.


Summarizing Checklist for Assessment of Student Work:

Student Name:

When summarizing, did the student….



Mark out unimportant and repeated information?



Highlight important information?



Construct a summative sentence on the passage?






My brain.


Lakin, Patricia. Food Around the World. N.p.: Blackbirch Press, Inc., 1999. Print.


Hughes, Anna. “Summarizing is Superb”. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/explor/hughesrl.html

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