Cracking the Code to Summarization

Reading to Learn

 Meg Wilson



Rationale: Our goal for readers is that they comprehend the information they are reading. One strategy that will help with comprehension is summarizing. Summarizing means identifying and recalling the main ideas in a text.  This lesson will give students brief steps to use when summarizing and allow students to put their knowledge of summarization into practice. Students will practice their skills on short passages while using the summarization checklist.



~ Classroom set of the book Hard to Crack: Nut Trees

~Summarization checklist on poster board: Delete unimportant information, Delete repeated information, Pick out important information, Create the topic sentence

~Summarizing checklist (25 copies)



1.  Say: "Today we are going to be talking about summarizing. Does anyone know what summarizing means? Summarizing means to find the main ideas in the text. We need to use summarization when we read to help us check for comprehension of the story. Does anyone know what comprehend means? Comprehend means to understand something. Summarizing is one of the steps that helps us comprehend the text."

Now review with students the summarization checklist (listed above).

-We need to delete unimportant information because that information doesn't help us understand the text. (You need guiding questions to do this like: What subject seems to be mentioned more than once? That is the topic. That’s important because that’s what it’s about. What is the author trying to say about the topic? We need to look at the action words first. Are some alike? Can we put all the alike words into a category.)

-We need to delete repeated information because that information will just confuse us, and those facts have already been stated.

-We need to pick out important information because that information provides us with details on what the text is about.

-We need to create a topic sentence because that helps us know what the text is about and what the main idea is.

 2. Say: "Before we practice summarization, we are going to go over some vocabulary. Lets look at what the word pollinate means. Pollinate means the placement of pollen on a flower so that fruit will grow from the blossom. If plants are not pollinated, seeds and fruits are not produced. Which one of these sentences contains the correct meaning of pollination: Bees can pollinate the flowers of many plants. Plants can grow fruit without being pollinated. Finish this sentence, “One way to pollinate a flower could be….”

Possible answer: “by the placement of pollen on a flower by either a bee or the wind.”

3. Display the summarization checklist on poster board for the students to see. Go over the checklist again explicitly. Say: "Now I'm going to show you how to summarize an article. I'm going to cross out unimportant information and highlight the repeated information in blue. Also, I am going to highlight the verbs and their actions in red. I'm also going to find the topic sentence. Lastly, I will summarize this article in one sentence.

 -Paragraph: Walnut trees, like pecan trees, begin in nurseries. California walnut growers plant young grafted trees about thirty feet apart. Most of the trees begin producing nuts at about six years of age. Workers regularly prune and irrigate the young trees. Many orchards grow cover crops, such as barley, as natural fertilizer for the soil. Growers plant these cover crops in October and plow them into the soil in spring.

*First I’m going to highlight in blue the things I see that are the same. I see trees- 4 times and walnut- 2 times. That is what it’s about – walnut trees.

*Now I need to figure out what the author is saying about walnut trees.

*What’s the point? I’ll look for the verbs and see what the action is. I’ll right that in red.  

* It’s about: plant about thirty feet apart, producing nuts at about six years of age, regularly prune and irrigate, grow cover crops, plant cover crops, and plow cover crops

Plant, produce, prune and irrigate, grow, and plow are farming terms.

*What’s the point about farming? Walnut trees need to be taken are of to grow.

*Walnut trees are planted about thirty feet apart and begin to produce nuts at about six years of age.

I think that’s what it’s about!

 4. Say: "Now let's try summarizing a paragraph together. Everyone turn to page 14 in your books and lets summarize the first paragraph under “A Cultivated Nut”. Remember our summarization checklist. We are going to underline important information and cross out unimportant information and repeated information. Remember to create that topic sentence!"

 -Pecans came into their own as a southern specialty when a planter named Le Page du Pratz wrote The History of Louisiana in 1763. Du Pratz praised Louisiana pralines. The sweet patty was traditionally made in France by cooks using caramelized sugar and almonds. In Louisiana, pecans stood in for almonds, and brown sugar took the place of white. In modern times, pralines are still popular across the United Stated.

-What’s it about? How pecans became so popular (pralines).

-What’s the point? To inform people on how pralines are made now compared to originally.

-Summary: Le Page du Pratz made pecans famous by praising pralines in The History of Louisiana in 1763.

5. "Today we will practice our summarizing skills with the book Hard to Crack: Nut Trees by Meredith Sayles Hughes. We are going to be reading about the history of pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, and macadamias, which are some of the world’s most popular nuts. This book gives us an inside look at planting, harvesting, and processing.  You will have to read and find out how these different nuts make their way from the field to the table. You are going to read pages 4-8. You will stop and write a summary sentence after each page. Remember to use our summarization checklist and underline important information, cross out unimportant information and repeated information. Most importantly, write that topic sentence!"



For the assessment I will use the checklist listed below to grade the students summarizing skills for the second paragraph on page 10. Also, I will ask some comprehension questions on the paragraphs we summarized together and the sections the student’s summarized alone.

When summarizing, did the student….



Delete unimportant information?



Delete repeated information?



Select a topic?




Write and inclusive, accurate and, simple topic sentence to summarize the passage?






1. Adams, Marilyn. Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print- A Summary. Champaign: Center for Study of Reading Research and Education Center, 1990.

2. Jordan, Shelby. Speedy Summarizers!

3. Hughes, Meredith Sayles. Hard to Crack: Nut Trees. Minneapolis, Learner Publications Company, 2001.

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