Summing it Up!


 Reading to Learn Lesson Design


Elizabeth Moats




            The goal of reading instruction is comprehension.  Students need to learn strategies that can help them comprehend what they read.  One of these comprehension strategies is summarization.  Students should learn how to summarize by taking out unimportant information and writing about the important parts of a story.  In this lesson, the students will learn how to collect information and use it to summarize a story.

            (Objective): The students will silently read a passage, and then they will use the steps of summarization to write a summary about what they read.



- Enough computers for each student (computer lab) to access: A Wall of Water sweeps Ashore.  National Geographic for Kids.


Mighty Oaks Recover After Hurricane Katrina.  National Geographic for Kids.

-  Paper and pencil for each student.

-  Marker board and markers to write down steps and class summary.



1.  Begin the lesson by discussing the importance of being able to summarize what you read.  "When we read a story or an article, some of the information is more important than other information.  When we read, it is important that we focus on the important ideas in the stories.  When we summarize, we take those important facts and put them together in a summary.  This helps us understand what we read better, because we are taking out the unimportant information".


2.  "Remember when we learned about reading silently?  When we read our story that we will summarize, we are going to be reading silently.  When you read silently, you need to point to each word that you read so you can keep your place.  You can start out by whispering and then begin to read without saying anything.  You might want to slow down when you get to an important part of the story.  Make sure that you do not look around or talk to anyone, because you might lose your place".


3.  "Today we will be summarizing the first chapter of Sarah, Plain and Tall.  After reading the chapter silently, you will summarize the important facts about this chapter.  In order to do this, you need to know some important steps that can be used when you summarize.  These steps are:

                        1.  Take out information that is not important

                        2.  Take out information that is repeated

                        3.  Find the main idea

                        4.  Connect the main idea with information about that idea

We can use these steps to create a summary of what we read.  A good way to begin a summary would be to ask some question after you finish reading.  You might think about the main characters, the main event that occurred, or the place where the events took place.  These questions can help you decide what information is important and what is not important in the story.  After you have decided what you want to write in your summary, you can begin by stating the main idea.  You include this in your topic sentence, the sentence that tells what the text is about.  Then you should write down information that supports the main idea".


4.  "If I wanted to summarize A Wall of Water sweeps Ashore, I would start out by thinking about the main people and events in the story.  (Write on the board the names of the main people and the main events)  Now I will use the four steps we learned to find the information that needs to be used in my summary.  (As a class, talk about the important information and write it on the board.)  For example, I don’t think I will include the specific people that Rina lost in the tsunami, but I will write about the when the tsunami hit".  (Use the information on the board, and ask students to help you write a short paragraph that summarizes this article.)


5.  "I want everyone to silently read Mighty Oaks Recover After Hurricane Katrina.  After you read, ask some important questions and follow the steps we talked about to find the important information.  Once you have gathered your information, write a paragraph that summarizes this article".


6.  For simple practice, I would read the first paragraph of Mighty Oaks Recover After Hurricane Katrina to the students.  I would ask the students to come up to the board and write down important information that should be included in our summary.  We will find the main idea and write a short summary of the first paragraph on the board.


7.  I will assess students' summaries that they write.  I will check to see that students include the main idea, support the main idea, and delete trivial information.  I will also choose another article from this magazine and ask students to go through and delete information that is unimportant.  I will then check these.



 Pressley, Michael.  (1989).  Strategies that Improve Children’s Memory and Comprehension of Text.  The Elementary School Journal.  Vol. 90, pp. 5-11. 

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