Sinking Into Summarization

Reading to Learn

Jamie Storey

As students work on becoming skilled readers, they must learn how to comprehend.  A strategy to help in improving comprehension is summarizing.  Students must have instruction on how to successfully summarize a text so that they will be able to read and understand what they are reading.  They need to learn how to identify what is important and not important in a paragraph and then how to delete the unimportant information as well as the repeated information.  Also, if students can shrink the amount of information given, they will be able to remember what they have read once they are finished.  Students can add a series of events with an action term as well.  Identifying the topic and creating a topic sentence if there is not already one can greatly aid in organizing thoughts as the reader continues to read.


- Paper

- Pencil

- Copies of Lesson in Lava from National Geographic Explorer.

- Bookmark for each student with the summarizing checklist on it.

            1. Delete unimportant information

            2. Delete repeated information

            3. Substitute easy words for the lists of items

            4. Add a series of events with an easy action term

            5. Select a topic

            6. Invent a topic sentence if there is not one already

- Summarizing assessment checklist


1.  I will start a discussion on summarizing in order to find out what students may already know about summarizing.  To make sure that everyone understands, Say: "Summarizing is when we pick out the main ideas from a paragraph so that we have a shorter amount of information to understand and remember."  Today we are going to work on becoming excellent summarizers so that when we read a text, we will be able to better comprehend it.

2. Before we get started we need to go over some words that we will read in the article. Knowing what these words mean will help us to better understand the article. The words are:

            lava, crust, plates, mantle, magma,


Let's look at what the word lava means. Molten or melted rock from a volcano. When looking at this picture of a volcano, the red, orange, and yellow liquid running down the side of the volcano is called lava.


Today we are going to read about volcanoes. Which one of these sentences using the word lava is in the same context as we will see it being used in the story? During the dodge ball game, my teammate was hit in the face with a ball and became as hot as boiling lava. OR Lava took over the city because it was so close to the eruption?


Finish this sentence: The volcanic eruption caused…

            Possible completion: … the city to be flooded with lava.



2.  To summarize as you read on your own, you need to ask yourself questions as you read.  As a class, we are going to practice summarizing and to start out, I am going to ask questions out loud that I might ask myself if I was reading silently. The article that we are going to read today is called "Lessons in Lava." Can anyone tell me a prediction of what you might think this article will be about? (I will then allow the students to give some answers and then close up the discussion.)  Just from giving you the title of the article, it could be about a volcano, someone getting stuck in the middle of lava and they learned a lesson etc. Now we are going to read a part of the article together and then go back and work on our summarizing skills. I'm going to read the article out loud and I want all of you to make sure that you are paying attention and following along as I read. Also, notice how I am reading fluently and with expression like we have talked about before so that I will better understand what I am reading.

            (Excerpt from article): It takes a full day to climb up the side of the volcano. From the edge, two of the world's leading volcano scientists look down into the crater. It is black with hardened lava. Sims, Tedesco, and their team have come to Africa on a three-week mission. They want to study this volcano. It is called Nyiragongo. It is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. It is also one of the least studied. A war that has lasted for nearly 20 years has kept scientists away.


Now, that we have read part of the article, we need to pick out the important parts that we have read about so far in order to come up with a topic sentence and summary.  I will then allow students to respond with important points - Dario Tedesco and Ken Sims are volcanic scientist, Nyiragongo is a volcano in Africa, It is the most active volcano on earth, It is one of the least studied, Goma is the city that is at the bottom of Nyiragongo can could be in trouble when the volcano erupts. Now we need to create a topic sentence from what we read and from the main ideas that we picked out together- Volcanic scientist study the most active volcanos . Our topic sentence was created by adding together all of the main ideas that we found from the text.  Since we have done some practicing together, I want you to now read the rest of the article silently to yourself and once everyone is finished reading, we will work together on summarizing the rest of the article. 


 3.  Now that you have read the entire article, I am going to give you a bookmark with the steps to summarizing on it in order to help you summarize what you have just read.  (Hand out bookmarks)  As I read the steps aloud, you read them silently.

            Delete unimportant information
            Delete repeated information
            Substitute easy words for lists of items
            Add a series of events with an easy action term
            Select a topic
            Invent a topic sentence if there is already not one

It's important to delete the unimportant information from an article or story because a lot of times it can be distracting to us and make us forget the main point of what we are reading about.  Getting rid of repeated information, or information that we already know is helpful too because it helps us to determine the main topic of the text.  If we substitute easy words for a list of items, it makes it less information that we have to remember.  For example, if I said Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Artic, what is one word that describes all of those?  Yes, we could call them the oceans instead of trying to remember each individual one. We can also add a series of events with an action term to help us remember the passage as well. Then we can select a topic for our text and create a topic sentence that describes what we have read. 


4. Let's talk about what we read in the article.  In order to do this, I'm going to show you an easy way to help you understand summarizing and what you have read.  (Draw a web on the board) What I have drawn on the board is called a web.  A web can help us to organize the information that we read in an article or story so that we can more easily understand it. In this center circle, we put what the entire article is about.  Who can tell me one word that describes what this article is about?  (Volcano Research) Great! So I will write Volcano Research in the center circle. Now, who can tell me one thing that they read in the article that was about the volcano? As students name facts, I will write a few of them on the web and explain to the students that as they recall information from a passage, they can add them around the center of the web. If we were to finish our web, we would have a pretty simple summary of the article that we read. For each part of the web, we could create one sentence and then put all the sentences together to create a short paragraph that summarizes the much longer article.       


5.  Now I want you to find a partner and together, you are going to use the article and your bookmark and create a web on your own.  I want you to actually finish making your web and as you work on it, I should see you doing things like, crossing out information in the article that wasn't important.  Once you and your partner have finished your web, I want you to write a short paragraph using your web that will be a summary for the article on Lessons in Lava.




While students are creating their summaries, I will walk around and observe and ask questions to check for comprehension. Some possible questions could include:

Teacher will collect the summaries, using the assessment for summarization sheet, evaluate student's work on creating summaries.


When summarizing, did the student…



Delete unimportant information?

Delete repeated information?

Organize items with a big idea?

Select a topic?

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






Michael, Finkle. Lessons in Lava. C2010. National Geographic Society.


Referenced Lesson Plans:

Kathleen Wheat

Angela Simpson


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