Lesson Design – Summarizing Expository Texts

Lauren Cauthen     Reading to Learn



Successful readers are able to not only read and decode text, but also to construct meaning. This means that the student is able to read with comprehension. Several self-help strategies can be employed to help a reader fully comprehend a text they are reading. By explicitly modeling these strategies to students, and then offering them the opportunity to practice the strategies for themselves, teachers can better prepare readers to develop skills in processing the expository texts that they will encounter throughout their school careers. This lesson plan focuses on the summarization strategy in order to help readers identify the most important points or main ideas in an expository text.



·        Projector and overheads or Smartboard presentation prepared with:

o   (Slide 1):

§  This glab flot many trugs. Moggle yibbed and yabbed. Bick cay sot faddle pock.

o   (Slide 2):

§  Summarization Rules (click here for Word document)

o   (Slide 3):

§  Panda Bear article (as seen in National Geographic for Kids, photocopy included in this packet) or another article of teacher’s choice

·        Overhead pen if using projector or Smartboard pen if doing computer presentation

·        Copy of Rule Worksheet for each student

·        Choice of articles for pond animals (or other article of teacher’s choice) for each student

·        Writing utensil for each student

Procedures for carrying out the lesson in detail, with numbered steps.

1)     Tell students you are about to show them a sentence and ask students to read the paragraph aloud as a group. Reveal the paragraph:  This glab flot many trugs. Moggle yibbed and yabbed. Bick cay sot faddle pock. (Slide 1). Lead the students in reading the paragraph. Then ask students, “Good job reading! You pronounced most of those words just right! Now, who understood what we just read?”.

2)    Explain the importance of reading comprehension by telling students, “You did a great job sounding out those crazy, made-up words in that paragraph, but just because you were able to sound them out didn’t mean that you know what they meant. The same thing is true when we read real words. When we are reading it is important that we be able to sound out the words but it is also important to know the meaning of what we are reading. When you know the meaning of what you are reading, that means that you understand what the words are trying to tell you. This is called reading comprehension because you are comprehending, or understanding, what you read. There are several strategies we can learn to use that will help us check ourselves to see if we are understanding what we read. One strategy we can use to make sure that we get the main idea is called summarization. You may have heard the word, “summary” before. This means that we want to cut out all of the not-so-important parts so we can figure out the main ideas that the writer wants to tell us about. There are several different tricks we can use to pick out the important ideas and I am going to show them to you right now.

3)    Introduce summarization rules. Reveal overhead/ Smartboard presentation with summarization rules (Slide 2). Read through the list. As an accommodation for low attention spans and to break up the monotony of just you talking, you may want to call on a different volunteer to read each rule.

4)    Demonstrate use of summarization rules. Say, “Those were some really helpful tips for summarizing, and now I am going to use that list of tips to help me summarize an interesting article I found about a runaway panda. The title is Runaway Panda, so I already have a good clue about the main idea of this article. To begin, I am going to read all the way through so I can know what it is all about.  (Read the article aloud.) Now I am ready to use my summarization rules. The first rule is to delete all of the trivial, or not-important information, so I am going to look for the things that aren’t as important in this article. I don’t guess it matters how old the panda is, because that doesn’t make a difference in the story. It is just a detail. I am just going to cross that off my article. It doesn’t really matter that she ran through the gate or through the river, because those are just details about where she ran, and the most important thing is just that she ran away, so I am going to mark out those details, too. The second rule is to look for information that was repeated, but I don’t see anything that’s is repeated, so I am going to move to the next rule. The next rule says to look for general terms in this article, so I am going to circle some of the most basic words that are very important to this story. ‘Panda’ is important, since that is the main character, so I am going to circle that one. We know that the main thing the panda did was run away from her natural habitat and go into the village, so I am going to circle the word ‘wandered’, since that is the main thing that the panda did – the panda wandered. It is also important that the villagers tranquilized the panda and saved her by putting her back in her natural habitat, so I am going to circle the word villagers, since that is another character of this story, and I am going to circle what they did, so I am going to circle the word “saved”. Now I am going to look at my next rule, and I see that I should write or select a topic sentence that tells me the most important things in this article, or the main idea. I think that the sentence, ‘So when the villager realized that the endangered animal was wandering around their village, they called in the experts.’ is pretty close, but not quite what I want, so I am going to write my own topic sentence: A panda wandered into a village, so the villagers made sure that she was put safely back into her habitat. This includes all of the most important details into one sentence. It tells the main thing that the panda did and the main thing that the villagers did. It also includes some elements about the beginning and the end, or the problem and the solution. The problem in the beginning was that the panda was in the village, and the solution at the end was that the villagers got the panda safely back to her habitat.”

5)    Give students a chance to practice these skills on their own. “Now, I have a challenge for you. My name is Mrs. Pimpernickel, and I am the editor of a very famous magazine. You are all my very talented writers and you have all written fabulous articles about pond life for this month’s magazine, but we have a problem! The paper delivery truck is running late, and we don’t have enough paper! We only have enough for 3 pages per magazine, so we are going to have to summarize our articles so that they take up less space on the page! We can only tell the MOST important information!  Since you have already written your articles, you are going to have to really narrow them down so that the world can still get their information! Do you think you are up to the challenge?” Tell them that they can pick one of the selected article options you have for them about pond animals, and then write a summary about that article. Provide an "book t talk" introduction to the article choices. With the article packets, you may include a graphic organizer or checklist (included in this packet) to help students apply these rules themselves.


Circulate the room as children work, helping them to apply the rules.

          Check each students summary, and answer the following questions about each child:

          -Was the student able to eliminate unimportant details?

          -Was the student able to cut out redundant information?

          -Was the student able to identify important topic words?

          -Was the student able to identify the main idea of the article in a topic sentence?



These alternate lesson plan ideas for summarization are available online:

Catherine Church, Let's Really Sum It Up!.


Lauren Beno, Learning About Lemurs--A Summarization