Let’s be Star Summarizers!

Learning to Read Design

Rebecca Walton


Rationale:  Summarization is an important skill that helps students learn to read for meaning and understanding.  If students can summarize text, they are able to understand what they read.  If a student is able to summarize skillfully, he is able to delete trivial information, and focus on finding the main idea of the article or story and important supporting details.  This lesson teaches students how to summarize so that they can understand the main idea of what they read. 



One piece of notebook paper for each student

One pencil per student

Chalk and chalkboard

A copy of National Geographic Article “U.S. Endangered Species Act Works” by Maryann Mott for each student

A copy of National Geographic Article “Toad Tunnels” by John Roach for each student



1. Today, we are going to learn how to summarize what we have read.  Summarizing is important for helping us understand what we read.  Does anyone know what the word summarize means?  Let the students give their ideas of what a summary is.  To summarize means to find the main idea of the passage or story that you read.  When you write a summary, you want to pick out the most important facts.  Here are six steps that will help you when summarizing.  Write these steps on the board:

1.  Delete unimportant information.

2.  Delete repeated information.

3.  Substitute easy terms for list of items.

4.  Add a series of events with an easy action term.

5. Select a topic.

6.  Invent a topic sentence if there is none.


2.  Pass out a copy of the article “U.S. Endangered Species Act Works” to each student.  This article is very important because it discusses whether a law called the U.S. Endangered Species Act is helping to save animals that are in danger.  Some people think that the law is not working.  Let’s read to see if the law is helping to save animals.  We are going to read, and then summarize the article together.  I want you to read to yourself and look for the main point of the article while I read out loud.  Now, I am going to pick out the main point of the article:  If an endangered animal is protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act for a long period of time, it will more likely make progress than if it is not protected.  This will be my topic sentence (teacher writes topic sentence on the board).  Next, I need to find the important details to back up the main point:  The law will only help the endangered animal if a recovery plan is developed and the animal’s habitat is protected over a long time.  Some people think the law is not working because only a small number of endangered animals have recovered.  Research shows that it takes a long time for the plan to work.  Even if only a couple of animals make progress, this makes the law worthwhile.  Teacher writes these sentences on the board, and explains that the sentences sum up the article.   It is important not to copy sentences straight from the article.  You should write the important information in your own words. 


3.  Now that I have shown you how to write a summary, I am going to let you practice summarizing by yourself.  Give each student a copy of the article “Toad Tunnels” and a sheet of notebook paper.  First, I want you to read the article silently to yourself.  Then, I want you to answer the questions that I have written on the board:  What is the title of the article?  What is the main idea of this article?  Write three sentences to support the main idea.  Using these questions, write one paragraph to summarize the article. 


4.  After everyone gets finished summarizing the article individually, we are going to summarize it as a class.  What is the main idea of “Toad Tunnels?”  Let a couple of students raise their hand and give their thoughts on what the main idea is.  Write a topic sentence on the board based on what the students say.  What are some supporting details that back up the main point?  Let several students answer. Pick out the most important facts that the students give you, and write them on the board.   Does the summary on the board look like the summary that you wrote on your paper?  Did you pick out the same important details as your classmates? 


5.  Assessment:  Have students turn in summaries that they wrote.  Look to see if each student wrote a topic sentence, and was able to pick out some important supporting details and write them in their own words. 



Maryann Mott.  U.S. Endangered Species Act Works, Study Finds.”  National Geographic News Online.  


 John Roach.  “Toad Tunnels.”  National Geographic News Online. 


 Emily Wheeler. “To Sum it all Up:  Learning to read.”  The Reading Genie Online.



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