Successfully Summarizing



Reading to Learn

Lauren Walker



Rationale: In order to be successful readers, children must master the skills of comprehending the text that they read. To advance their comprehension skills, students must learn to summarize. This lesson is designed to teach students the skills of summarizing, by teaching simple rules and strategies to follow, such as how to pick out important information and get rid of information that doesn't necessarily matter. Students will learn how to compose their own summarizations. 


-Summarizing Rules Poster

1. Pick out the most important information

2. Get rid of unnecessary information.

3. Write one to two sentences that include only the important information drawn from the passage

-Student copies of the article Harriet Tubman: Civil War Spy

-Student copies of the article The Salem Witch Trials

-SMARTBoard or document camera

-Highlighters (1 per student)

-Lined paper for each student

-Pencils (1 per student)

- Assessment Checklist (1 per student)



1. Say, "We already know that in order to be good readers, we have to be fluent. Another important skill we must have is the ability to comprehend what we read. Who knows what it means to comprehend?" Take student answers. "Good! To comprehend means to understand what you've read. To better understand what you read, you need to be able to summarize. Today, we are going to talk about how to summarize when we read."


2. Say, "When you summarize, you pick out the main ideas of a part of literature. Let's look at these rules to summarizing." Refer to poster hanging on the board in front of the classroom for everyone to see. "There are three rules to summarizing: Pick out the most important information, get rid of unnecessary information, and write one or two sentences that include only the important information drawn from the passage. We are going to practice our summarization skills while we read about two major events in history."


3. Say, "Before we get started, let's talk about what the word expedition means. An expedition is a journey organized for a particular purpose. If we are going on an expedition, we have planned to go on some sort of trip or journey.  A class trip to the safari would be more like an expedition than taking a trip to the dentist. Which one of these is more like an expedition… going to explore a foreign land or going to the grocery store? Good! Exploring a foreign land would definitely be an expedition! Now finish this sentence: An expedition I would like to go on is…


4. After going over the rules of summarizing and the vocabulary. Model how to summarize the first paragraph in the first passage, Harriet Tubman: Civil War Spy. I'll start by giving a book talk. "Today, we are going to read a couple of passages about two big events in history. Our first passage is about a woman named Harriet Tubman who helped slaves escape during the civil war. Who exactly is Harriet Tubman? How did she help slaves escape? What ever happened to her? We are going to read to find out."


5. Say, "We are going to start by reading the whole passage. Don't mark on your paper yet. I'm going to show you exactly what to do after we read." After we read the article pose the question: "How would I summarize the first paragraph? As I reread the first paragraph aloud, look at the document on the board and read silently to yourselves, and watch as I cross out unimportant information and then underline the important details."


Harriet Tubman is well known for risking her life as a "conductor" in the Underground Railroad, which led escaped slaves to freedom in the North. But did you know that the former slave also served as a spy for the Union during the Civil War and was the first woman in American history to lead a military expedition?


Summary: Harriet Tubman, a former slave and spy, led slaves to freedom in the Underground Railroad.


6. Say, "Now let's summarize the 2nd paragraph together. As you're reading, ask yourselves the following questions: what or who is it about? What's the point? Everyone read with me."


Tubman decided to help the Union Army because she wanted freedom for all of the people who were forced into slavery, not just the few she could help by herself. And she convinced many other brave African Americans to join her as spies, even at the risk of being hanged if they were caught.


Go over the big ideas and main points, taking suggestions from the students. Possible answers:


Big ideas? Tubman helped the Union Army.

How? Convincing African Americans to join her as spies

Why? Because she wanted freedom for all people.


Summary: Tubman helped the Union Army by convincing African Americans to join her as spies, because she wanted freedom for all people.

7. Pass out the second article, The Salem Witch Trials. Whole Text: Give the students a new article to read and have them summarize this on their own.  Say, "Today we will practice our summarizing skills with the article, The Salem Witch Trials, by National Geographic Kids. This article explains the events of the Salem Witch Trials, where women were accused of witchcraft. The vocabulary words for this section are: Puritans, forbidden, coffin, suspicious, craze, and executions. Read the entire article and remember underline facts and details, cross out useless facts, and write a summarizing sentence after each paragraph on your own sheet of paper. Ask yourself: What's it about? What's the point?"

Assessment: After students complete the reading and their summaries I will ask reading comprehension questions and we will discuss them as a class.

-Q: Why did the Salem Witch Trials Begin? A: A group of girls were caught ding "witchcraft" in the woods.

-Q: Who were the first 3 people accused of witchcraft? A: Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osbourne

-Q: Who was Tituba? A: A slave that the girls accused of being a witch.

-Q: How man people were killed as a result of the trials? A: 24 people

 I will also take up students' summarizations and complete the following table for evaluation:


                  Did the student


Highlight important information


Mark out the repeated and unneeded information


Summarized to form a few sentences that had a main idea



National Geographic Kids, Harriet Tubman: Civil War Spy

National Geographic Kids, Zeglin, Sara. The Salem Witch Trials

Smalley, Alli. "Summarizing Summary!"

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