Swimming Through Summarization

Reading to Learn

Carmen Harper

Rationale: Summarization is a very important part of reading and comprehending text. Good readers are able to find key points and main ideas in order to summarize a story. Through the use of these techniques and through reading connected text, this lesson will give children practice in this important skill.  





Excerpt for each child

Modeling excerpt for each child

Practice excerpt for each child

Black magic marker for each child

Dry erase marker/board



1.     Explain the purpose of the lesson to the students. Say: "Today we are going to learn how to summarize! Who knows what summarize means? That's correct! After we read a story or a passage, we can summarize it. We do this by picking out the main ideas and the most important parts and putting it into our own words. When you summarize, you are simply retelling the story, keeping the main ideas in your summary, and throwing out the minor ideas. We only keep the most important ideas of the passage in our summary."


2.     In order to model the strategy of summarization for the children, pull up the smart board or overhead projector, with a prepared document to demonstrate summarization to the children. Say: "All right boys and girls, first I am going to demonstrate how to summarize a passage. This passage is called, Crabs Clean Up."



3.     Before introducing a passage to read, it is important to review vocabulary words. Say, "Before reading this passage, we are going to learn some vocabulary words that you might not know the meaning of. Some of you might have heard of these words, but that's okay. We are going to talk about them again! (Teacher will write words on the board). The first word is species. Let's look at what that word means.  A species is a group of organisms, or a type of organism. A species is a specific organism, such as a Polar Bear. A species is specific to the animal or organism. For instance, an example of a species isn't just a bear; it's a Polar Bear. In the passage we are about to read, species refers to all the different kinds and groups of crabs. Another word you may be unfamiliar with is the word sediment. What does sediment mean? Sediment means tiny particles, or bits of dirt.  Great! Let's get started!


4.     Pass out a copy of Crabs Clean Up to the students. Say, "I want you to read along with me as I read. Listen carefully to the entire story, because I am going to show you how to summarize after we are done reading". (Teacher reads passage with the children, using the overhead projector). The teacher will then model how to pick out important information and unimportant information. Say, "What subject seems to be mentioned more than once? That's the topic. That is important because that is what it's about! Let's highlight frequent words in red. What could be the topic? That's correct! It's about crabs because it is mentioned the most! What is the author saying about the topic? Let's look at the action words first and highlight those in blue. What words did we highlight? We highlighted that crabs take care of a huge job, that they keep coral reefs alive, and that coral reefs depend on crabs to survive.  

Researchers have discovered that tiny crabs about a third of an inch (one centimeter) long take care of a huge job. They actually help keep coral reefs alive. And that's important, because more than nine million species depend on coral reefs around the world for food and shelter. These tiny crabs, called trapeziid crabs, accomplish a lot despite their size.

5.     Now, I'm going to use my marker to cross out unneeded details. I'm going to cross out the part of the sentence that states that the crabs are about a third of an inch. That detail is not important; it's a minor detail of the story. Details are descriptions that help you see what the text means, but examples are not important. Delete the examples.  We don't need that minor details for our summary to make sense. To create a summary, we put all the important details together in our own words. So, my summary will be: Though crabs are very small, they help keep coral reefs alive through a variety of ways. Everyone understand? Any questions? Great!


6.     In order to provide guided practice summarizing to the children, I will provide a short excerpt for the children to summarize. Go over unknown vocabulary words with the students.   Say, "Now it is your turn to practice! I want each of you to highlight main ideas, cross out unnecessary ideas, and come up with a sentence summary of this passage".

Their moans, groans, squeaks, whistles, and grunts can sound as if they're a heavy metal band. But bottlenose dolphins make their own kind of music. Many of the sounds they make could be imitated by holding a balloon tightly by the neck, then letting the air out faster and slower. Bottlenose dolphins send messages to one another in different ways. They squeak and whistle and use body language--leaping as high as 20 feet (6 meters) in the air, snapping their jaws, slapping their tails on the surface of the water, and even butting heads.

7.     Say, " Let's look at what we should cross out and highlight. Let's start with the topic.  What do you think? What's it about? What is used most frequently in the text? Great! I see the word dolphin a lot, and these dolphins seem to be sending messages. What's our topic? Yes, our topic is Dolphin Communication!  Next, we are looking for the point! What action verbs do you see? We found out that dolphins squeak, move, and use sound to communicate! Next, we need to mark out trivial info we don't need! Remember that we don't really need examples or repeating info. What can we cross out? Do we need to know an example of what their communication sounds like, such as the balloon? Great job! We don't need it for our summary to make sense. After reading, crossing out, and highlighting, what could be your summary? Great job! You are right! A great example of a summary could be "Dolphins speak to each other with sounds and body language".


8.     Say, "What have you learned so far about summarization? How is it important? Those are great answers. Today, you are going to summarize a passage of your own! You are going to summarize an exciting article about a jellyfish invasion called, "Giant Jellyfish Invasion". ( pass out article to students).  This is an exciting article about huge jellyfish invading! You'll have to read to find out what they are invading.


9.     Say, "Before we read, let's go over some vocabulary words you may not know in this passage". Teacher will go over vocabulary words that her specific classroom probably isn't familiar with. These include: plankton, poison, catastrophe.


10.    Say, after you finish reading the passage, you are going to summarize it on your own. I am going to give you time to read this passage to yourself, and then I want you to write the best summary you can! Remember to use your highlighter and marker as you read to help you out! Use the highlighter to highlight main ideas, and use your marker to cross out unnecessary ideas. When you get ready to write your summary, keep it in 2 sentences or less. Remember to only use important information! Stick to what the article is mainly talking about. After you have completed summarizing your passage, I will collect your papers".


11.   The teacher will use a checklist to make sure that students have understood the concept of summarizing.

Did the student?



Comprehend the information from the passage?

Delete unnecessary information from the passage?

Highlight important information from the passage?

Write at least one sentence that includes all the important information in the passage?




Bottlenose Dolphins.


Fox, Katherine. Crabs Clean Up.


Musgrave, Ruth. Giant Jellyfish Invasion.


Summarization is a Piece of Cake, by Mery McMillian





Return to Doorways Index