Sum It Up!

Reading to Learn

By: Sharon Scyphers

Rationale:      Comprehension is an important goal for students as they learn how to read. It can often be difficult to teach a student how to comprehend materials, but it is necessary for a student to comprehend the material in order to explore and understand texts. Teaching students to summarize as they read is a very effective method that students can use to ensure comprehension while reading. Summarizing is best taught in steps. Deleting trivial and redundant information will allow the student to focus on the important details. Students should also substitute easy terms for lists of items, as well as exchanging a series of events with one action term. It is also very helpful for the student to either find the topic sentence that covers the main idea of the story or create a meaningful topic sentence. Following these steps will develop a child's ability to comprehend and recall information read.



1.    Begin the lesson by reviewing how to read silently to ensure all students understand how and why to read silently. "Can anyone tell me what we do when we read silently? Very good! It is when we read the words but we do not say anything with our mouths. Only our brain can hear us! Who can tell me why we read silently? Good answer! We read silently to help us understand and remember all of the good details from the text. Today we are going to practice reading silently, but we are going to work on summarizing what we have read as we work through the text."

2.    Introduce the students the lesson by explaining what it means to summarize and the steps it takes to form a summary. "Today we are going to talk about why it is so important to understand what we read and we are going to learn ways we can be sure we understand it. If we read something and do not understand what it says have we learned anything? No! When we summarize what we have just read, we can be sure that we understood the text. Does anyone know what the word summarize means? It means to tell what the main idea of the story was. There are steps we can take to understand and summarize the story better!"

3.    Teach the students the steps we follow to correctly summarize a selected text. "There are three easy steps we can follow to summarize what we have read. First, we can throw away all of the unimportant and repetitive information. We do not need all of those messy details to confuse us! Next we can think of a main heading or action word to take the place of a long list of items or events. Finally, we need to find or make up a topic sentence that tells the main idea of the story! If we follow these steps every time we will be able to summarize the story and retell it just as if it was your own!"

4.    Next, provide each student with a copy of The Dragon Hunter. "To practice summarizing we are going to read this article titled The Dragon Hunter and summarize it using the steps we have learned. After you have read the article silently begin discussing the main topic of the article with a partner. Begin to delete the excess information and choose only relevant thoughts. After everyone is finished we will compare everyone‰¥ús ideas and come up with a class summary of the article."

5.    Once all silently reading is complete begin the class discussion. "Ok now we are going to write out our ideas about the story to form a story map. We need to put the main idea in a circle in the middle like a web. Who thinks they know what the main idea might be? (Take suggestions and draw a conclusion of the main idea) That‰¥ús exactly right! The main idea of the article is dragon flies." Draw the story map on the board as the student copy on their own paper.

6.    Model and explain to the students how to find important information from the article. "Since we know the main topic, now we need to add bubbles to the main idea with important information that completes the story. Remember we only want important information. One important fact I found was there are 5,500 different types of dragon flies. Do you all agree that this should go in a bubble around the main topic? Good. Now can one of you give me another idea that we should add to the map.  (Add a few more ideas of important info to the board)."

    7.    Allow the students to complete the story map independently. Tell the students to create a topic sentence about the main idea. "After you have completed your story map, it should be easy to put the thoughts into sentences and construct a summary of the article. I want each of you to take your map and create a summary of the article. The summary should tell what the article was about, and someone who hasn‰¥út read the article should still understand what it is about."

Assessment: I will use the summaries that the students create independently to assess their comprehension and summarization skills learned throughout the lesson. I will check their work to be sure each student is applying the knowledge, deleting important information, identifying main ideas, and constructing a topic sentence.


Parker, Lauren , Summarizing. (2005)

Wilson, Keith.  The Dragon Hunters.  National Geographic:  2005.

Return to Encounters Index