A Few Steps, Sum it UP!

Reading to Learn

By: Jessica Parker




Rationale: As children reach the late elementary school years, comprehending what they read becomes greatly important. Students are expected to remember information that they read, so they can analyze and explore written text.  In order for children to be able to recall the main points from  written text, they must be able to summarize the information.  However, until students are provided instruction on how to construct summaries, this is very difficult for them.  By teaching children how to delete trivial and redundant information, superordinate items and events, and either find or create a topic sentence that covers the main idea of the story, we can help children to better remember information that they read.



Copies of National Geographic Online’s Lemurs for each student. This article can be found at:


Paper for each student


Chalkboard/dry erase board

Chalk/dry erase maker




1.) Begin lesson by reviewing what students do when reading silently.  Today boys and girls, we are going to be doing some silent reading.  Does everyone remember doing silent reading? Good, I’m glad to see we remember. Today before we start, I want us to spend a little time reviewing how we read silently.  Let’s start our review by me showing you how to read silently.”  Model how to read silently for the children.  Over-dramatize your eyes moving from word to word.  You can go as far as making motions with your mouth like you are reading.  Make sure not to say anything aloud. After you have read for a couple of minutes, stop and ask the students, “Can anyone tell me what some important rules are when we read silently? That’s right! Let’s make a list of our rules on the board.  Continue by letting students suggest rules. Make sure students stay on track and are remembering the rules. “Wow! We have a great list here on the board!  You all did a super job!”

2.)Transition to introducing today’s lesson by explaining what it means to summarize what we read. “Today we are going to talk about how important it is to understand what we read.  If we read something and we don’t understand it, does that help us? No, it doesn’t.  We want to always make sure we understand what we are reading.  A good way for us to understand something that we read is to summarize the text after we read it.  Has anyone ever heard the word summarize?  To summarize a story means to pick out the main idea of a story.  The main idea is what the story is about.  By picking out the main idea, we can remember and understand the information easier.  Sometimes stories have a lot of information in them, and only some of that information—the most important details—help us to understand the story.  Today we are going to learn some rules to help us summarize a story.”

3.)Explain to the students that there are three steps we can follow to summarize a text. “There are 3 steps that help us to summarize information when we read.  I have written these steps on the board. Let’s go over them together.

- Delete information that is not important or is repeated.

      - If there are lists of items or events, think of one main heading or word for this information, instead of listing each item or event.

      - Find a topic sentence that covers the main idea of the story, and if there  is not a topic sentence, create one.”

4.)After going over the rules hand out copies of Lemurs to the students.  “To work on our summarizing we are going to read silently, this article titled Lemurs. After you  have finished reading silently you can begin talking about the article with your neighbor.  When you talk make sure to only talk about the main topic and leave out any information that is not important. When everyone has finished reading and discussing we are going to organize our information into a summary map.”

5. Once everyone has finished reading, get students’ attention and move on to the story map. “Ok, everyone should have gotten a chance to read and discuss the article with someone. Now we’re going to make a summary map to help us summarize the article.  When we make a summary map, we put the main topic or idea, in a circle in the middle of our paper.  Can anyone tell me where we can find the main idea?  That’s right, we can usually find it in the first paragraph. Who can tell me what the topic of our article is?  That’s right again, you are such smart students!  Our main idea is lemurs!  So we want to write the word lemurs in our topic circle.” Model on the board.

Now that we know our topic, we will draw antennas from our main circle to describe different important facts that the article told us about.  Remember, though, that when we are thinking of these details, our rules tell us that we don’t need to include information that is not important.  So, if I was thinking of a detail to include, I might include Lemurs live in only one place in the wild..  Add this detail to the summary map on the board.  Question students for one or two more details to include and write them on the board also. “Can anyone give me an example of something that we would not include because it is unimportant?”

7.) Have students finish the summary map on their own.  Remind them to refer back to the rules that are listed on the board.  Instruct students to come up with a topic sentence for the article. “After you have completed your summary map and have your topic sentence, it should be easy to write a summary.  I want everyone to write a summary of the article that they could use to tell a classmate that didn’t read the article, what the article was about.”



Assessment: I will assess students work by taking up their completed summaries and evaluating how well the seemed to grasp the concept, making sure that they deleted unimportant information, used main headings, and had a topic sentence.




Rene Ebersole.  Lemurs.  National Geographic News Online 



Pressley, M., Johnson, C. J.,  Symons, S.,  McGoldrick, J. A., and Kurita, J.A. (1989).   Strategies that Improve     Children’s Memory and Comprehension of Text.  The Elementary School Journal.  90(1), 3-32.


Wheeler, Emily. To Sum it all Up…



 McClanahan, Hope. What Was THAT All About?


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