Lee Branum
Reading to Learn

Ten Cents A Word
Rebecca Lee Branum

Rationale:  It is important for students to know how to summarize to improve their comprehension.  By finding the key points and main idea words, students are able to summarize larger selections of texts.   Summarizing text helps students to better comprehend their reading and gradually become skilled readers.  This lesson will demonstrate to students how to silently read a selection of text and pull from it the main ideas.  They will then proceed to summarize the text in as few words as possible.

Materials:  Sum It Up Worksheets (enough for entire class); copies of article “Flying the Distance” from Good Apple Magazine; paper; pencils; chalkboard; chalk

1. Begin the lesson by explaining to students the importance of summarizing.  “Summarizing is when you take a large selection of text and reduce it to the bare essentials, the main points that are worth remembering.  When you read an entire chapter in your science or social studies books I do not expect you to remember every detail of what is said in the text.  I want you to remember the main ideas.  Today we are going to learn how to “sum up” an article about monarch butterflies that I copied out of a children’s magazine, but first I will show you a few strategies you can use to summarize text.”
2. Teacher passes out the article “Flying the Distance”, one copy to every student.  “Now I am going to read the first two paragraphs of this article aloud to you and I would like you all to follow along with me as I read. ?It weighed about the same as a postage stamp, braved sun, wind, rain, escaped birds and other predators, and flew as far as 2800 miles to winter in an unknown area.  Fantasy? Science fiction?  No, a tagged Monarch butterfly made the fall flight from Canada to winter in the mountains of Mexico.  It was found in Austin, Texas the following April-  Now boys and girls I am going to think of the main things the author of this article was trying to tell me in those first two paragraphs.”  On the board the teacher begins to write down key words and main points.  “First I am going to write Monarch butterflies on the board because the author first tries to make us guess what he is talking about and the answer is the Monarch.  Next I am going to write down 2800 miles from Canada to Mexico because the author wants us to know that this small butterfly can travel a very long distance.  The last thing I am going to write on the board is escaped hardships because this butterfly flew this far and went through many hardships along the way including rain and wind.  Now I am going to write one sentence that uses these key ideas to summarize the first two paragraphs.”  Teacher writes this sentence on the board: Monarch butterflies travel 2800 miles from Canada to Mexico, escaping many hardships.
3. “Before you try summarizing I want us all to review silent reading.  Does anyone remember what silent reading is?  Good, it is reading to yourself without saying anything aloud.  I want you to practice silently reading this article.  I am going to give you enough time to read the article through two times before we begin our summarizing activity.  Remember to keep in mind that you are looking for key terms and ideas.  If you would like you can lightly underline the points you think are important in the article so that you can look them over after reading the article.”  Teacher allows students ample time to read article thoroughly twice.
4. “Now we are going to do an activity called ‘Sum It Up’ where you will all pretend that you are sending a telegram to your friend telling him/her about the Monarch butterfly, but there is one condition.  EVERY word you use costs ten cents so you are going to try to summarize the article the best you possibly can, while still telling your friend some very interesting information.  You will write three summaries, each one getting shorter than the summary before.  The first one can only cost five dollars, the one after that can only cost four dollars and fifty cents and the last summary can only cost four dollars and thirty cents.”  Teacher should hand out the ‘Sum It Up’ worksheet.
5. “At the top of your sheet you have space to write down the main idea words from the article, just like I did earlier on the board.  Remember that details are not important.  You just want your friend to know the gist of the article.”
6. For assessment when everyone is finished with their assignments summarize the article as a class getting your information from your students.  Allow each of them to put in their own ideas about what is important from the article.  Afterwards count the number of words the classroom telegram would cost.  Also look over the individual ‘Sum It Up’ sheets to make sure everyone began to understand the concept of summarizing.

Schuckenbrock, Mildred.  Good Apple Magazine May-June 2002.  pgs. 13-14.

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Sum  It   Up

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