Slim and Trim: Sum it Up!

Kristan Whitman

Reading to Learn


Rationale:  The ultimate goal of reading is the reader's comprehension. In order to comprehend text, it is necessary for students to learn effective strategies that they can use when they are reading independently.  Summarization is an effective, research-based strategy that aids children in comprehending text.  In this lesson, students will practice silent reading and the strategy of summarizing using graphic organizers and a checklist.   After the lesson, they will be able to effectively comprehend text by using the summarization strategy in their independent reading.

A copy of All About Frogs by Jim Arnosky (Scholastic Inc., New York : 2001) for every student
- A copy of
One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies (Scholastic Inc., New York: 2001) for every student
- A copy of the article
Baby Hippo Orphan Finds a Friend by Catherine Clarke in March of 2004 from National Geographic Kids found at
- handout copy of the graphic organizers "An Important Point" from the
First Graphic Organizers: Reading by Rhonda Graff Silver (Scholastic, Inc., 2003) for all students and a blown up copy of the graphic organizer laminated to write on in front of the class
- Copy of summary checklist for each student that says:           
1.  Is unimportant or repeated information left out of your summary? Yes or no           
2.  Are important events and ideas stated? Yes or no           
3.  Do you have a topic sentence that states the author's main idea? Yes or no
- notebook paper and pencils for each student- easel or board to display blown up copies of graphic organizers
- dry erase board and markers- a yellow and blue highlighter for each student
- column handout (3 three columns: unimportant/repeated info, important ideas/events, author's main idea)


1.  "When we read, the most important thing we do is to comprehend, or understand, what we are reading. Comprehending helps us to understand what is happening in a story, or to learn important information from text. We are going to practice summarizing today. Summarizing is a strategy you can use on your own to help you comprehend or understand the text you are reading. We will practice finding the main idea and details as we read about several different animals"

 2.  "The way we are going to read today is silently.  Does anyone remember what silent reading is?  Silent reading is when we read text to ourselves instead of out loud so we do not disturb others around us.  Let me show you just as a reminder.  I am going to read the sentences I have written on the board out loud and then I am going to read silently.  I want you to pay close attention to the differences.  (I will read the sentences "Pizza is my favorite food.  I could eat it everyday." aloud then silently to model by paraphrasing to show I understood what I read).  Now I want you to try.  I am going to write a new sentence on the board. (write "Put your left hand on your right shoulder." on the board).  Now everyone read the sentence on the board silently and demonstrate what you read. (everyone will read it silently, then show they understood by following the directions)  Good!"

3.  "When we summarize the text we are reading there are three things that are important to keep in mind that will be helpful.  First, we should leave out unimportant and repeated information.  Second, we should always state the important events and ideas.  The third thing to remember is that we should write a topic sentence that states the author's main idea.  The three things will help you to write a summary.  So now I want everyone to get out your article called Baby Hippo Orphan Finds a Friend and your blue and yellow highlighter. This article tells the story of a baby hippo who was left behind after flood waters in the East African country of Kenya swept him and his herd down the Sabaki River and into the Indian Ocean.  Most of the hippos returned inland, however, this baby hippo did not.  Lucky for him, rescuers found him and took him to the shelter and named him Owen.  While in the shelter he met an unlikely friend that took everyone by surprise.  To find out about Owen's new friend you will have to read the article Baby Hippo Orphan Finds a Friend.  I want everyone to read this silently then we are going to complete this graphic organizer together and write a class summary.     As you read to yourself, think about what information is unimportant and repeated, what are important events and ideas and what is the main idea that we can make a topic sentence out of.  You have two highlighters.  If you come across any unimportant or repeated information I want you to highlight in blue so that we leave it out of our summary.  With your yellow highlighter highlight what you think are the important events, ideas, and the author's main idea.  We will help each after we read by going over what we should have highlighted so everyone can know what information to look for. Now everyone read silently paying close attention to the article then we will go over it together." (give silent reading time, then time for the class as a whole to create graphic organizer then use that tool to write a class summary of the article).   

4.  "Now we are going to read a book.  Everyone please get out All About Frogs.  Frogs are fun pets.  It is interesting to watch them grow from tadpoles to adult frogs! However it is important to know how to take care of your pet frog.  In the book All About Frogs you can learn everything you need to know.  Now I want everyone to read the book silently to yourself.  I want you to use the handout I gave you with three columns that will help classify the three reminders about summarizing.  As you read I want you to put repeated and unimportant information in column 1, important events and ideas in column 2, and when you finish try to come up with the author's main idea and write it in column three.  I want you to work with your partner next to you to do this.  When you finish, come up to the front of the room and pick up a copy of the graphic organizer we used together and work with your partner to complete to write a topic sentence that states the author's main idea in the book on the top line.  Then I want you to fill in the lines on the fingers with important events or ideas.  You may have found one or you may have found more.  Fill in what you have."  (give about 10 minutes, then go over answers with whole class)

6.  "Now everyone get out a piece of notebook paper.  On your own, I want you to write a paragraph that summarizes the book All About Frogs that you read silently using your two handouts you and your partner completed to guide your summary.  Also use the summary checklist that I handed out with the three reminders on it.  Start with a topic sentence that states the author's main idea.  When both you and your partner are donw writing your summaries swap paragraphs and read each other's summary and then fill out a checklist on your partner.  Circle yes or no beside each of the three reminders to let your partner know if they did it or not. " 

7.  "Tonight I want everyone to read the book One Tiny Turtle at home silently.   In One Tiny Turtle you will learn about the Loggerhead turtle while reading a story about its life.  Loggerheads swim alone in the vastness of the water, munches on crabs, floats over coral reefs and crawls with slow, heavy steps across the beach to lay her eggs.  To learn more about Loggerheads you will have to read the book One Tiny TurtleThen I want you to write a paragraph summarizing the book in your reading journal just as we have done in class today.  You can use the graphic organizer and chart to help as well as your summary checklist.  Tomorrow I will read your summary and fill out a summary checklist on your paragraph to see how you did."


To assess the children I will read their summaries that they wrote on chapter 2 and fill out a summary checklist for them and discuss with them the summaries they wrote.  This way I will know how well they mastered the skills required to write a summary. 



Arnosky, Jim.  All About Frogs.  Scholastic Inc., New York: 2001.

Campanatta, Gina. Summarize the Danger!

Clarke, Catherine. Baby Hippo Orphan Finds a Friend.  March 2004.  National Geographic Kids.

Davies, Nicola.  One Tiny Turtle.  Scholastic, Inc., New York: 2001.

Fleming, Nell.  1,2,3A Summary.

Silver, Rhonda Graff.  First Graphic Oraganizers" Reading.  Scholastic, Inc.  New York: 2003.