Just Get to the Point… Sum It Up!!


Reading to Learn

By: Kacey Albright


Rationale: As students are reading, one of the main goals is comprehension because this shows that they have understood the material that they are reading. One of the key strategies to test for reading comprehension is summarizing. By summarizing the material, the students are choosing the main ideas, and they are highlighting the important facts. This helps them to understand their reading in a more condensed version, while still comprehending the main idea of the material. This lesson will help students gain the skills to summarize an article, in order to understand the deeper meaning contained in it. Students will use the following summarization rules: choose a topic sentence, cross out unimportant details or repeated ideas, and highlight important ideas and put into one sentence.



Paper for students

Pencils for students

Highlighters for students


White board

Copies of the article, "Polar Bears Listed as Threatened" (one per student)

Copies of the article, "First Thanksgiving" (one per student

Summarization Rules: choose a topic sentence, cross out unimportant details or repeated ideas, and highlight important ideas and put into one sentence.

Assessment checklist



1. "Hello students! Today, we are going to practice a new strategy as we are reading. We are going to focus on summarizing because this will help us to comprehend the passage better as well as become excellent readers! Does anyone know what a summary is?" (wait for a response) "Yes, correct! It is a shorter version of a long story or article, and it contains only the main facts and ideas of the story or article. In order to summarize, we will first need to learn our summarization rules. They are the following: First, choose the main idea of the article, which is usually the topic sentence. Then, cross out useless sentences or repeated ideas. And lastly, highlight the important facts and ideas and condense these into just a few sentences. Let's get started!"


2. "Today, we will practice by reading an article and summarizing it. (I will post the summarization rules on a transparency and place them on the projector for the students to see). Make sure you refer to our summarization rules as you are doing this, and make sure you put the summary in your own words.. The best way to do this is to read slowly, reread important parts, and to make notes. And lastly, cross out unimportant and redundant information. Before we get started, we will review our vocabulary words." Vocabulary list: species, habitat, repopulate, and extinct.



-Let's look at what the word extinct means. To be extinct means to be nonexistent. When something is extinct, it does not mean that it is still living.


-Dogs or cats would not be animals that are extinct. Dinosaurs, on the other hand, are extinct creatures because they are no longer existent.


-Which of these is more likely to be extinct? Endangered species or pet friendly species? Animals that live in the Arctic or animals that live in the zoo?


-Finish the sentence: The polar bears may be going extinct because…. (possible response: because of the melting sea ice, which is causing a loss in their habitat)


3. Model: After going over the vocabulary words and the rules with the students, model how to summarize by reading, "Polar Bears Listed as Threatened." Pass out a copy of the article to each student and give a book talk: "We are going to read an article about why polar bears may be going extinct because of the melting sea ice. What can we do to prevent this? Let's read on to see! First, we are going to read the whole passage together. We don't need to make any marks just yet." Then, model a part of the passage to show the students what summarizing looks like. Pose a question: "How would I summarize the first two paragraphs? Let me show you. First, I would cross out unimportant details, then underline important details and put into one sentence. A few guiding questions to help you understand what is important and what is not important are the following: What is it about? What is the point? Ask yourself these questions as you are reading. Watch as I model the first two paragraphs."


What is it about? Polar bears (highlight polar bears)

What is the point? They are a threatened species and live in the Arctic (highlight all)

Why? Decline of the Artic sea ice, that is melting as the planet warms (highlight)


Polar bears were added to the list of threatened species and will receive special protection under U.S. law. In his statement, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne noted that the decline of Arctic sea ice is the greatest threat to the bears.


Polar bears live in the Arctic and hunt seals and other fatty marine mammals from sea ice. They also travel, mate, and sometimes give birth on the ice. But sea ice is melting as the planet warms, and it is predicted to continue to do so for several more decades.


Summary: Polar bears are becoming a threatened species because of the decline of the Arctic sea ice that is melting as the planet warms.


4. Guided practice: "Now, let's all try this together! Everyone read the third and fourth paragraph with me."


"Because polar bears are vulnerable to this loss of habitat, they are—in my judgment—likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future," Kempthorne said. Although many scientists say that human activity is directly responsible for the melting sea ice, the new polar bear protections will not change U.S. climate policy."


Big idea? (topic) Polar bears are vulnerable to this loss of habitat, which means they are likely to become endangered species. Human activity is responsible for    ^   of the melting ice.



Why? Loss of habitat


Summary?  The reason polar bears are becoming endangered is because the ice is melting, which is taking away their habitat.


5. Whole Text: Give the students a new article to read and have them summarize this on their own. "Today we will practice our summarizing skills with the article, 'First Thanksgiving', by National Geographic Kids. This article explains why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, "which is a national holiday honoring the early settlers and their harvest feast known as the First Thanksgiving." The vocabulary words for this section are: pioneers, English colony, First Thanksgiving, Indians, and myths. The article explains all about the early settlers, their exploration, the celebration, and the myths of Thanksgiving. Read the entire article and remember to highlight important facts and details, cross out useless facts, and write a summarizing sentence after each paragraph on your own sheet of paper. Ask yourself: What's it about? What's the point? Good luck!"



Assessment: Take up students' summarizations from the article above and evaluate using this table:


When summarizing did the student..... Yes No
Delete unimportant information?    
Delete repeated information?    
Organize items with big idea?    
Select a topic?    
Write an inclusive, simple topic sentence to summarize the passage?    


Also, ask comprehension questions such as:

How did the First Thanksgiving originate?

Who were the first settlers?

Why was there an agreement made between the English and the Native people?

How was the celebration started?

How are the myths not true?




National Geographic Kids

Roach, John. "Polar Bears Listed as Threatened" http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/stories/animalsnature/polar-bears-threatened/


National Geographic Kids

Grace, Catherine O'Neil and Bruchac, Margaret M. "First Thanksgiving" http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/stories/history/first-thanksgiving/


Long, Ali. "What's the Point? Sum it Up! http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/invitations/longrl.htm

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