Super Summaries

to Learn

Kelby Conway


Rationale: Comprehension is an important goal in reading instruction.  Students are expected to comprehend and recall many expository texts in upper elementary grades.  Summarization is one effective method to aid comprehension and recall.  By deleting trivial information, deleting redundant information, substituting superordinate terms for lists of items, and selecting a topic sentence, students will be able to retain information in a more organized and permanent fashion.


Materials: Copies of Baby Hippo Orphan Finds a Friend. This article is accessible at ; teacher’s checklist for assessing summarizations which checks for a topic sentence, supporting details, omission of repetition and trivial information, and substitution of superordinate terms for lists of items ; chalk; paper and pencil for each student


Procedures: 1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that to improve reading comprehension we can summarize an article shortly after we read it. Explain that not only will summarizing the information help us to understand the main ideas better, but it will also help us to remember the ideas in the article for a much longer amount of time.


2. Say, “Before we learn how to summarize a passage, let’s review one thing that good readers so.  Who can tell me what reading silently involves? Right, making no noise or sounds while you read.  I’m going to demonstrate.” Hold up a book and read a couple of sentences.  Then say, “Don’t forget to read silently today so that you can comprehend even better.”


3. Pass out copies of the article Baby Hippo Orphan Finds a Friend to the students. Say, “Before we each read this article silently, let’s talk about how to summarize.”


4. Write the following steps on the board and discuss them as a class.

1) Delete trivial information

2) Delete redundant information

3) Substitute superordinate terms for lists of items

4) Select a topic sentence


5. Introduce the article by saying, “A baby hippo accidentally got separated from his family and friends during a flood.  The baby hippo needs a friend but no other hippos are anywhere to be found.  Will he be able to find a friend?  Who will it be?”  Have the students silently read the first two paragraphs of the article. When everyone has read them, model how to summarize the information. Say, “Okay, first I’m going to select a topic sentence for the first paragraph. I’m going to select the sentence ‘Sometimes unlikely pairs form friendships.’ Of the second paragraph I’m going to select ‘A baby hippopotamus left behind by the herd.’ Okay, these paragraphs are very short so I think stating a topic sentence for each sufficiently captures the main ideas.  There are no lists to be made and I’ve deleted trivial information so I’m ready to move on.”


6. Ask the students, “Do you think you can finish summarizing this article by yourself using the steps we’ve talked about? Good, well—I’m going to walk around and help while you all do your first super summarization. When you’re all finished, we’ll talk about what you’ve written and why.”


7. When students are finished, have volunteers read parts of their summarizations and cite which guidelines they were thinking of as they made their choices.  Look for opportunities to offer alternative choices that would work just as well.


8. To assess, collect and evaluate students’ summarizations based on the checklist.  The checklist looks for a topic sentence, supporting details, omission of repetition and trivial information, and lists where appropriate.




Pressley, M., Johnson, C. J., Symons, S., McGoldrick, J. A., & Kurity, J. A. (1998).  Strategies that improve children’s memory and comprehension of text.  The Elementary School Journal, 90, 3-32


Fox, Catherine Clarke. Baby Hippo Orphan Finds a Friend. National Geographic Kids.


Pringle, Erin. In a Nutshell

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