It’s ALL Good!

(reading to learn)

by Mark Mathews


Our students cannot be expected to comprehend full texts without the right tools for the job.  The tool this lesson brings to light is summarization.  When readers have the ability to identify what information is important and what information is not those readers are getting the bigger picture.


1.  Sunspots: Modern Research, an article found through National Geographic Explorer, an online magazine for children.

2.  paper

3.  pencils

4.  chalk board or dry-erase board

5.  chalk or dry-erase markers


1.  [ Explain Why ] “Today we’re going to talk about how fluent readers can summarize information.  When I say that fluent readers summarize I mean that they have learned to recognize and remember the most important things about passages from text.  If you can learn to pick out the most important information and leave the rest behind you will become better readers.”

2.  [ Review ] “Remember, there are four steps to summarization: [1] Find the main ideas and most important information from the passage.  [2] Leave unimportant information behind.  [3] Make sure to highlight key words in your mind from important information.  [4] Use your key words to sum up the idea of  the passage in one sentence.  These four steps make up the idea of summarization.”

3.  [ Explain How ]  “When I say that you need to notice the most important parts of a passage, I usually mean getting information that answers: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?  You must be careful though, sometimes names and places get tossed into passages but the main idea doesn’t involve them.  The more we read and the more we practice the easier it will be to recognize what information is important and what information isn’t.  A quick example of picking out important information and discarding unimportant information with multiple names is like when someone is telling you a story and the main idea is this: Bob hit his thumb with a hammer.  But the person says it like this: “Did you here about Fred’s brother Joe’s friend Gary’s cousin Lilly’s boyfriend Bob hitting his thumb with a hammer?”  You see how not every name in that passage was important?”

4.  [ Model ]  “I’ll give you another example with some step by step work with a passage from the article we get to read today … “While it's easy to understand gas pressure (as gas is heated it expands, increasing pressure, and as it cools, it contracts, decreasing pressure), magnetic pressure may be a tougher concept to grasp. David Dearborn explains, "If you take those places where there are concentrations of magnetic field and put them together, they have pressure of their own. You can feel magnetic pressure when you take two magnets and take the ends of the same polarity and try to put them together. The just don't quite want to go together. That's magnetic pressure."  I would sum this up with a single sentence:  Magnetic fields have their own pressure and can be seen when two magnet ends of the same polarity are pushed close to one another to show the magnetic pressure.

5.  [ Simple Practice ] “Lets all practice our summarization skills with the opening paragraph of the passage we’re reading today from the National Geographic Explorer webpage.  Remember we are reading silently to not distract one another.  Focus on what you’re doing and not what others are doing.”

6.  [ Read ] Read Sunspots: Modern Research silently as a class.

7.  [ Assessment ] While the students read have them use pencil and paper to write out key words and important information for each paragraph they read, then have them find the most important information and key words for the article from the key ideas and terms they found from individual paragraphs.  From their work assess whether or not they have grasped concepts of keywords, and discarding unimportant information.



  1. Get to the Point! By Kim Alldredge.
  2. Putting It all Together by Lea Mclean.
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