Brandy Thomas
Reading To Learn

 Fourth grade is a tricky transitional phase for students. The goal is no longer learning to read, but rather reading to learn. Students will be required to read more complicated text and will be expected to comprehend completely enough to pull out the main ideas while deleting the trivial, or useless information. Summarization is one of the strongest and most universal tools used to comprehend and remember important ideas. This design will focus on finding the main points and throwing away any useless, or trivial concepts.

     Gold Rush Article (see references list) ­ one for each group of 3 or 4 students, one 3 sided stand up project board, marked with K, W, or L in each section (see illustration below materials list), markers, construction paper, scissors, glue, lined paper, pens, large post-it notes (2 for each student), mixture of sand and 5 polished rocks.


1. Introduce lesson by explaining that summarization is an important studying and comprehension tool. Summarization allows the reader to focus on only a couple ideas instead of a hundred, and really get their hands on the main ideas.
2. REVIEW:  Building Background Knowledge. Break the class into small groups of 3 or 4 students and brainstorm everything they already know about gold, the gold rush in California, and so on. Have them write down every idea on a sheet of lined paper. Teacher should tell students : No answer is wrong, creativity is not a minus it is a plus. The more knowledge we have on a subject the easier it will be to learn more. Each student in the group should choose one or two ideas (from the group sheet) that they think no one else would say and write each one on a large post-it note with a marker. The teacher should go through and read each one out loud then place it under “K” on the 3-sided board.
3. Tell Students: Summarizing what you have read is like panning for gold. Just imagine that your mind is the sifter (hold up sifter (gold pan)), the article itself is the mixture of sand and gold (hold up mixture). The idea is to sift/drain out all the non important (trivial) information and find "the gold and gems beneath," otherwise known as the main ideas. While explaining demonstrate sifting the sand away to reveal the polished stones beneath. Don’t you think these 5 stones would be much easier to remember than those thousands of grains of sand?. Here is an example of how to summarize: (read short paragraph out loud). Barney woke up at 4:30 that morning to the sound of a shrill bell. Without even thinking he jumped from his bed in the fire station, and put on his gear. Barney and his other coworkers drove the 6 miles to Glenn Street and found the burning building. Using the water hoses, and the axes to break down the doors, they were able to put out the fire and save everyone inside.. This is how I would summarize this article. I noticed that the paragraph mentioned water hoses, an axe, and a fire station, so I know Barney must be a fireman. I know that the time he woke up, and the street he drove down must not be important because that would change daily depending on where the new fires were.  So, when I sift out the useless I would find the important stuff like Barney’s occupation, and some of the equipment he uses. The reason I think these things are important is because Barney would need all these things to do his job and save lives. Give each group a copy of the Gold Rush article provided and have them read it within their groups. Have them write down all of the ideas they found to be the most important. The teacher should go around the room and each group should read what they came up with. The teacher can write down these ideas under the L of the board.
4. To fill out the “W” or Want to know:  have each student come up with a question about the gold rush that they would like to know more about. Students can design their own gold pan with gold using construction paper, glue, scissors, and markers.  Have them type their question, print it, cut it out (in a strip) and glue it onto their “pan.” Then the finished product can be placed under “W.”  For an extension of this activity students could do further research to answer their question (using encyclopedias, the library, the internet, or other available resources).

 Give each student a copy of a paragraph about Cheetah’s (also provided), and have them write down what they believe are the main ideas, and why they think so.


Pressley, Michael. Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text. Elementary School Journal, Vol. 90, #1, 1989. pgs 2-28.

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