Sum it up!


Reading to Learn

Julie Kinsey


Rationale:  As students become more fluent readers, they will move from reading stories to reading for information.  Many of the passages will be longer than they are used to, so they need to be taught how to pick out the main points.  Summarizing is a great tool for readers, because it keeps them from getting bogged down in details.  Students will learn to summarize articles by observing a model by the teacher, summarizing an article on their own, and comparing their summary with another student’s summary.



chart with first three paragraphs of expository text Polar Bears

copy of expository text for each student Polar Bears

 summarization rules handout for each student


1. Delete unimportant information

2. Delete repeated information

3. Substitute a few words for a list of ideas

4. Make a series of events into one action term

5. Select a topic sentence

6. Create a topic sentence if you can’t find one    




1.  Today we are going to learn to summarize an article.  Summarizing is very important thing to learn how to do.  No one can remember every single word they read in a long article.  That is why it is important to learn to pick out the most important parts.


2.  Before we start summarizing, can anyone tell me about re-reading. Take answers from students, then tell how rereading can be helpful when you are summarizing.  When you are summarizing you will go through and find the most important ideas.  Some ideas will seem important when you first read them, but as you continue reading, you may find that some ideas are not as important as you thought.  You can reread to make sure all your ideas are important.


3.  Get students interested in polar bear text.  Ask students about the climate polar bears live in, if they think polar bears could ever get hot, etc.


 4.  Let me show you how to summarize.  I will use the rules on your handout to help me summarize.







In a polar bears Arctic home, winter temperatures can drop as low as 50F below zero

(-45C). But keeping warm is no sweat for a polar bear in fact, sometimes its biggest

problem is cooling off!

Imagine running around outside in a heavy down jacket. Even if it’s cold out, you might start to feel too warm. And much like you in that jacket, a polar bear is so well insulated that it can easily become overheated by moving too fast. It will often grab a mouthful of snow to cool off, says polar bear biologist Franois Messier. Or it may lie flat with its legs extended to expose its belly directly to the snow, since belly fur is much less dense. To keep from overheating, a polar bear usually moves slowly and doesn’t run very often.

So what keeps the polar bear so toasty in the Arctic deep freeze? The most visible protection is its thick fur coat. The coat has two layers: an outer layer of long, dense guard hairs and an undercoat of short woolly hairs. The guard hairs are actually hollow tubes that direct the suns rays to the bears skin. A polar bear may look white, but underneath its hair its skin is black. Dark skin absorbs more heat than light skin.

-From National Geographic-







First, I will take out unimportant information.  It’s not important to know that it gets 50F below zero in the polar bear’s arctic home.  I know that it gets really cold and that is enough to know.  I can also substitute a few words for a list of ideas.  After I understand that polar bears get hot in the cold weather like I can get hot with a big jacket on, I don’t need to remember all those sentences.  I just need to remember that polar bears get hot.  (and so on).


5.  Each student will create a summary by highlighting the important ideas with a highlighter.  Students will then be grouped together to compare summaries.  They should discuss where their summaries differ.  Students will then write a summary after they have resolved differences in their individual summaries.


6.  The teacher will assess the students using a checklist to determine how well they followed the rules to write their summaries.    The teacher should also listen to the students discuss their summaries with each other.




Anna Hughes.  Summarizing is Superb.



Kathy Kranking.  Bear Necessities.


Pressley, M.,Johnson, C.J., Symons, S., McGoldrick, J. A., & Kurity, J. A. (1989).

Strategies that Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text. The Elementary School Journal, 90, 3-32.

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