Ready to Summarize

Reading to Learn

Emily Shumock



When students learn to read, it is very important to also teach comprehension, so students can understand and recall the information read in any text.  There are several comprehension strategies students can learn to help them understand this process.  One strategy, summarization, helps students find and remember the most important information in a text through a series of five steps: delete unimportant information, delete repeated information, substitute easy terms for lists of items, substitute a series of events with one easy action term, and select/ invent a topic sentence.  This lesson will teach students how to summarize their reading with the help of these steps.  Once students learn how to use these steps, they will be able to summarize any text.




Chalk and Chalkboard

Copy of Your Amazing Brain from National Geographic Kid News (copies for each child)

Copy of The Secret Language of Dolphins from National Geographic Kid News (copies for each child)

Highlighters for teacher and each student




Overhead project and transparency of article (Your Amazing Brain)



1.  The teacher will begin the lesson by reviewing how to read silently. Say, “Can anyone tell me what it means to read silently?  Very good, it is when we read the words with our eyes without saying anything with our mouths.  Now, here’s a harder question.  Why is it good for us to read silently?  That’s right; it helps us remember what we read.  Today we are going to practice reading silently and learn how to summarize what we read, so we comprehend the text we read.”

2.  The teacher will discuss what it means to summarize a story and the steps it takes to create a summary.  Say, “Can anyone tell me what it means to summarize a story?  (Allow time for the students to respond)  When we summarize a story it means we give a shorter version of the story that only tells the most important parts.  There are five steps for us to follow when we are summarizing a story.  I will explain the steps and then you can practice summarizing on your own.”  The teacher will then explain the 5 basic steps to the students and write them on the board so they can refer back to them.  “These are the five steps that will help us summarize information we read:  first we get rid of any unimportant information, then we delete repeated information, substitute easy terms for lists of items, substitute a series of events with one action term that can be easily remembered, and finally we select or create a topic sentence.”   

3.  Say, “Now each of you is going to get a copy of a passage entitled Your Amazing Brain.  The article is about your brain: how it functions, what it is made up of, and many interesting facts.  How many neurons do you think might be in your brain?  We will have to read this article to find out all about the brain.  Now, I want each of you to read the article silently.  When you are done with the reading, close your packet and turn it over so I know you are finished reading.”

4.  “We are going to read another article in a few minutes, but right now I am going to show you how to use these five steps in order to create a summary of what we just read.”  (Put the passage on the overhead projector. Open it to the first page) “I am going to read the first page out loud and as I read I am going to highlight the most important information.  Then, I am going to come up with a summary incorporating the rest of the steps.”  (Model how to create a summary of the first page and discuss in detail how you came up with your summary.  Say, “The passage begins with a description of the brain and its jobs.  I will highlight the section that tells how much the brain weighs and what the brain allows us to do.  We want to highlight the parts we want to remember and what is interesting.”  The teacher will continue to demonstrate how to summarize the first page of the article.)

5.  Give each student a highlighter.  Say, “Now you are going to summarize the rest of the article.  I want you to highlight the important information like I did and be sure to use all five steps to create your summary.  When you are finished highlighting, write your summary on a piece of paper.”  (While the students are working, the teacher should walk around and guide them.  When everyone is finished, discuss what the students came up with and how they used the five steps to develop their summary.)


Pass out the second article to the students and provide a book talk (“This next article is about dolphins and the secret language they use.  Have you ever heard about this secret language?  We will have to read the article to find out what it is and how the dolphins use it.”)  Have the students read the entire second article silently.  The students will then write a summary based on the five steps after they have finished reading.  The students will turn in their summary and the teacher will use a checklist to decide whether or not they used the five steps in the summarizing process.

Sample Checklist:

1.  Removed unimportant/ repeated information

Yes O  No O

2.  Topic sentence given                      

Yes O  No O

3.  Only used main points                    

Yes O  No O

 4.  Created easy terms to classify items     

Yes O  No O


Pressley, M., C.J. Johnson, S. Symons, J.A. McGoldrick, and J.A. Kurity (1989) Strategies that Improve Children’s Memory and Comprehension od Text.  The Elementary School Journal, 90, 3-32.


 “The Secret Language of Dolphins.” Boyer, Crispin. National Geographic Kids Magazine. November 25, 2007.


Ward, Jenna.  Chunks, Chunks and more Chunks.


“Your Amazing Brain.” Richards, Douglas A. National Geographic Kids Magazine. November 25, 2007.

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