What’s the Main Idea?
Reading to Learn Lesson Design
By: Mariel D. Hall


Rationale:  When children read, they need to be able to remember what the passage is about through pulling out important information to summarize.  Summarization allows students to understand and recall the important information in reading.  Summarization must be taught and explained through rules in order to help children understand and remember what they have read.

Materials: “Tropical Regions.” Macmillan Social Studies, 1987-passage. pp. 192-196., notebook paper, pencils, checklist for assessment of summarization rules:

 1.  Deleted redundant information   ______
 2.  Found and used keyword terms  ______
 3.  Created and used topic sentence ______
 4.  Took out unneeded information ______ 

1. Ask students, have you ever read something and did not understand what you had just read when you were finished?  Tell the students it is important to understand what we read.  One way we can do this is through using a strategy called summarization, which helps us to recognize the main ideas in a passage.  Today, we are going to learn how to summarize a passage about tropical regions of the Amazon inBrazil.

2. Introduce the "Tropical Regions" passage to the children.  Tropical regions are areas found in various parts of the world, mostly in South America.  The temperature is hot and humid and many exotic animals live there.  The people who live in tropical regions live very different lifestyles from the way we do.  The children will read this silently.  Ways to do this are to use a quiet, whispering voice and to vaguely move your lips if at all.  Tell them to read the words in their heads without much vocal movement.  Remind the children that this allows them to read at their own pace.

3. After silent reading, the class will have a question and answer time, so they will understand the necessity of realizing the main ideas.  I will ask a few questions that are important to understanding tropical regions ("Why is rain necessary in the Amazon?") and ones that are not as important in comprehending the main idea because they provide little relative information ("What is the tallest tree in the rain forest?").

 4. Explain that there is no way we can remember every detail, so that is why we need to summarize our readings to remember the most important information.  Model summarizing one part of the passage of "Tropical Regions".  Most of Brazil consists of a tropical region called the Amazon rain forest.  The weather is unusually humid instead of dry.  (Hang up checklist with the four summarization rules listed).  There are four rules that can help us summarize what we read.  Let's go through them:  1) Take out parts of the passage that would not change the main idea if it were left out.  For example, the age of the trees in the rain forests is not significant in understanding tropical regions.  2) Take out redundant information.  For example, if the sentence said, the trees grow and grow. The trees eventually grow very tall.  The main idea is that trees grow tall in the Amazon.  3) Find a keyword that can represent a list of items.  Instead of saying that bamboo, rubber, palm, rosewood, vines, and ferns grow in the rain forest; say that various exotic plants grow in the rain forest.  4) Select a topic sentence.  For example, tropical regions consist of humid rain forests, which contain a variety of exotic plants and animals.

5. I will divide the class into partner groups.  They will read the "Tropical Regions" passage again, following the summarization rules.  The groups will be responsible for coming up with two or three sentences summarizing the passage.  I will have each group come up and share their summaries with the whole class.  Then, we will compare summarizations among the groups to see how close they were in selecting the main information.

 6. Assessment:  I will give students a passage to read and have them summarize it on notebook paper.  I will use a checklist containing the summarization rules and check off each rule as it is applied.

1. Leigh Anne Brace. So What Are You Trying To Say Here? htttp://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/breakthroughs/bracerl.html. (2001).
2. Lindsey Champine. Let Me Tell You What I Know.
http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/breakthroughs/champinerl.html. (2001).
3. Pressley, M., Johnson, C., McGoldrick, J., and Kurita, J.  (1989).  "Strategies that Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text."  The Elementary School Journal v. 90, no. 1, pp. 4-9.

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