dog reads

Summarize This!

Reading to Learn

Rachel K Sparkman


Comprehension is very important when it comes to students understanding a story. It is important for students to learn how to comprehend stories early in reading education. There are various strategies when it comes to gaining meaning and knowledge from text. One specific strategy is summarization. Summarization is erasing insignificant facts and repeat information, creating an umbrella terms for lists of items and events, and creating a sentence that contains the meaning the writer is trying to communicate through the text. By providing students with the necessary skills to construct summaries, they will be better equipped to interpret and convey the information gained from assigned readings.



Step 1: Get rid of any unnecessary or repeated information and highlight the important information.

Step 2: Choose a general "umbrella" term for lists of items or events.

Step 3: Write a strong topic sentence containing the main ideas that the author is trying to convey to the reader about a specific topic.


1. Introduce summarization. "We read for different reasons. Sometimes we read because it is fun, and sometimes we read to learn things. Sometimes, reading to learn things can also be fun! But whatever our reason, we have to understand what we read. There are different strategies for understanding what we read. If we summarize what we read, it makes it easier to remember important parts.

2. Explain summarization rules. "Summarizing means you take out the unimportant things in a passage and only use the important things. There are three steps for summarizing. The first step is to get rid of any unimportant information and highlight the important parts. We only want to remember the most important stuff, so if something is not necessary or if it is repeated, we'll cross it out. We're going to use our highlighters and pencils in a little while to practice this.The second step is to choose a general "umbrella" term for lists of items or events.  The third step is to use the important highlighted parts to write a topic sentences that gives the main idea of the article you read.

3. Model summarizing using this excerpt from National Geographic Kids. Show the excerpt on an overhead projector. Use your pen and highlighter to indicate important and unimportant parts. Connect what you are doing to the three summarization guidelines. Make sure that it is clear what makes a part important or unimportant.

For kids in many rural parts of Africa, the colorful PlayPump is the first playground equipment they've ever seen. When they give a push and jump onboard for their first ride, smiles of wonder break out on their faces. This incredible invention doesn't just change their playtime, it changes their lives. As the merry-go-round spins, it pumps clean water up from deep underground and stores it in a huge tank. People are welcome to come and help themselves to the water. In rural Africa, clean water is a luxury. Most people don't have plumbing in their homes. Instead, they often must walk long distances to wells and haul heavy containers of water back.

Sample dialogue for modeling: "Ok, I'm going to read this article, highlight what's important, and cross out what's not important. Africa is probably important because it is the setting of the article. I'll highlight the name of the pump because I think that is important. How does the pump work? I'll highlight that, too. It's not important to describe how fun it is, so I'll cross it out."

Once you have crossed out the unimportant parts and highlighted the important parts, have the students help formulate a sentence or two that expresses the main idea of a passage.

4.  Guided practice. Place students in groups of three or four and give them the "Sherpa People of Nepal" article. Have them practice summarizing this article in groups. Say, "We're going to practice summarizing in our groups. First, cross out the unimportant parts. Then, highlight the important parts. Finally, put together the important parts to make a sentence. We're going to share our topic sentences with the class after you all finish." Have each group read their sentence to the class, and discuss what is similar and different about each group's sentence.

5. Individual practice. Pass out the dolphin talk article. Say, "Now we are going to summarize an article on our own. Use the summarizing guidelines to help you write a topic sentence. Use your pencil and highlighters on the article, because I will be looking to see how you decided what was important. Write you summary sentence at the bottom of the page or on the back."



For assessment, use the checklist to make sure each student used the summary guidelines. Check for highlighter and pencil marks on the article to show that they are crossing out unimportant things and highlighting important things. Their individual summary sentence should contain all important parts of the article, and no unnecessary parts.



Barret Freeman. "Let's Make a Summary‰¥Ï It's Easy as 1..2..3..!"

National Geographic Kids article "PlayPumps: A New Invention Turns Work Into Play",

National Geographic Kids article "The Sherpa People of Nepal,"

National Geographic Kids article "The Secret Language of Dolphins,"

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