Reading to Learn
Rationale: Students must develop comprehension strategies to apply new and unfamiliar concepts and new vocabulary in texts. One important comprehension strategy is summarization through mapping out a passage. In this lesson, students will learn to take note of important information in passages they read and map this information in condensed sentences.
Materials: Paper; Pencil; A History of Alabama: An Elementary Course by Claire Buckner Ralston or another fact-based book; chalkboard; chalk
1. “Every passage has a main idea. We can shorten a passage by picking out the main points of the story. This is a very useful tool to use when
you need to study for a test. Picking out the main points allows us to focus on the main points when we do not need to know the details as
well. Today, I am going to show you a way to summarize from passages that will help you to study for your tests. This technique is called
2. “Everyone open up your Alabama history books to chapter twelve on page 203. This chapter is about the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. A
lot of important events went on at this time, but we need to focus on the main points. Notice how your book has broken down this particular
chapter into headings. These headings are organized by years and the important events that took place during that year. You are going to
map out each heading. We will do the first one together.”
3. The teacher will ask a student to read the entire passage under the 1954 heading. “We know that 1954 is the main heading of our passage,
so we will write this year and circle it. However, after reading the passage, we know there is only one main idea presented in this passage.
Therefore we will include Kansas City, the place of the event, in the circle with 1954. We will underline both of these in the circle to make
sure it is known that thse are the main ideas. Branching off of this we will write ‘Linda Brown’ and ‘all black school.’ We read further and
find out that Mr. Brown brought a law suit against the school system because of this. So we may want to add another branch saying ‘law suit
against school system.’ Branching off of this, we can put the ruling, which was what? (Teacher will wait for a student to answer). Right,
segregation in education is unconstitutional. Let’s branch this off of ‘law suit against school system.’ Now, what was the overall result of
this law suit? Did it change anything in our country? (Wait for students to answer). Because the law suit caused some states to work
towards ending school segregation, we can include this circle coming off our main circle.” Look at the overall map of that passage and
answer any questions that may arise. Make sure the students understand how to do this. “In this particular passage, there was only one
significant event, however, in some of the passages there may be more than one and you need to find a way to organize it in a neat and
4. “For homework, I want you to finish mapping out all of the headings in the chapter. Make sure you make the main ideas the center part of
your map and underline the heading inside that bubble to show that it is the main idea. You may begin on some of it now in case if you have
any questions. Remember to read silently, which we talked about early. Start by mouthing the words without making any noise until you feel
comfortable enough to stop moving your lips and reading to yourself in your mind.” Have the students begin mapping out the passages and
walk around the classroom answering any questions they may have.
5. For assessment, pick up each of the students’ maps of the chapter. Grade each of these according to the fact that they have done the
reading, found the main idea, and able to pick out the main points from the main idea.
Pressley, Michael. “Strategies That Improve Children’s Memory and Comprehension of Text.” The Elementary School Journal. Volume 90,
number 1. 1989.
Ralston, Claire Buckner. A History of Alabama: An Elementary Course. Montgomery, Alabama: Clairmont Press, Inc., 1987.
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