All in a Nutshell

Reading to Learn Lesson Design

Lindsay Williams




          As students enter the latter elementary grades, it is crucial that they have strong comprehension skills. Summarization is a great way to assess students’ comprehension by having children recall the important points from a passage or story. However, until students are provided with instruction on how to summarize, many find it difficult to construct summaries on their own. This lesson will teach children how to summarize by deleting trivial and redundant information and to find or create a topic sentence that highlights the main ideas of the story.



1.       Begin by telling the students that we are going to be doing some silent reading today. However, before we start let’s discuss some of the things we do or do not do while we are reading silently. Have students share some responses such as we do not talk or say any words as we are reading, we keep our eyes focused on only our story, and we do not disturb our neighbor.

2.       Next, I will model for the students how we read silently. I will over-dramatize my eye movement from right to left and may also move my mouth to the sound of each word so students can see how silent reading should take place.

3.       Next, I will introduce the lesson by explaining to students that an important step in comprehension is to be able to summarize a story. This ensures that you are grasping the main points of a passage. Explain that a good way to understand something is to summarize. When we summarize a story, we pick out the main ideas and facts so we can remember the important aspects of the story. Sometimes there is a lot of information in a story but only the most important details are needed to help us understand the story. Today we are going to learn some rules that will help us summarize a story.

4.       Explain summarization by writing the five steps on the board. I will go through each step so students will understand them. The first step is to pick out important details that we think are necessary to the story.  Number two says to pick out the less important ideas or ideas that are repeated and take them away.  Number three says to highlight the important and necessary details using key words.  Next, we pick a topic sentence.  Our last step is to invent a topic sentence if we don’t have one.  I’m going to pass out bookmarks to each of you that have these steps on them so you won’t forget our 5 steps of summarization.  You can use these whenever you need a little help.

5.       Hand out copies of Mighty Oaks Recover After Hurricane Katrina to each student. Explain to the students that a great way to help us remember important things from the article is to make a story map. Today, we are going to silently read the article to ourselves, and then together we will create our story map. When I say begin, I want you to begin reading. As you read, try to remember what the article is about. When you and the student sitting next to you has finished, you may discuss the article and tell each other what you think it is about. “You may begin reading now.”

6.       Monitor students reading by walking around the room and when everyone has finished, have everyone look up the board. Explain to students that we are going to construct a story map. When we do this, we draw a big circle in the middle of our page and we write the topic of the story inside the circle. Who can tell me what the topic of the story is? Good Job! It is Mighty Oak Trees. Therefore, we place Mighty Oak Trees in the center of our circle. Model this for the students on the board.

7.       Now that we have identified our topic, we draw lines coming out from our circle and draw new circles at the end of each of these. Model this for the students on the board. We them brainstorm different important facts about our Mighty Trees to place inside these circles. 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. If I was trying to think of a detail I might want to include in a circle, I may put, “The Live Oak Society honors the oldest and biggest live oaks” or “The flooding might danger the oak trees.” Can anyone think of something that would not be important enough to include in one of our circles? That’s right! Something we would not include is who the chairmen of the society are because that does not tell me anything about the oak trees.

8.       At this point, tell the children you are going to give them a chance to finish our summary map on their own. Explain to them that they need to remember to focus on the important details of the story and also to think of a few words that can replace a longer sentence or a list of words and events. “Once all of you have completed your map, I want you to brainstorm a topic sentence for your summary. I want all of you to use this sentence you create plus your summary map to write a paragraph summarizing the article we just read.

9.       To assess the children, I will call them up individually to my desk and have them read their summaries to me. I will ask them questions involving the five steps of summarizing to see if they used any of the rules in their summaries.



Fox, Catherine Clarke. Mighty Oaks Recover After Hurricane Katrina. National Geographic Kids News   

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.

Walton, Rebecca. Let’s Be Star Summarizers.

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