Get to the Point!

Reading to Learn
By Milissa King

    The goal of reading is comprehension.  One strategy that aids comprehension is summarization.  Teaching children how to summarize includes instruction on how to delete trivial details and redundancies, place items and events in order, and create a statement that contains the message the writer is trying to convey.  By providing children with instruction on how to construct summaries, they will be equipped with the knowledge of how to better interpret the meaning of the texts they read.






Delete unimportant information.



Delete repeated information.



Substitute easy words for lists of items.



Add a series of events with an easy action term.



Select a topic.



Invent a topic sentence if there is not one





1.    Begin the lesson by discussing what summarization is and why it is important.  “Does anyone know what the word “summarize” means?  The word “summarize” means to take out the most important information from what you have read and put it together.  When you have all the important details together, you have a summary.  Who has summarized before?  
2.    Explain that there are five steps to summarize.  Explain the steps to the children and have them either written on the board or on a large enough piece of butcher paper for the entire class to see:  "When we summarize, we do it using five steps.  These five steps help us summarize more easily.  I have those five steps written out for you to see.  First, pick out the important details.  Second, pick out the details that are repeated or are not important and get rid of them.  Third, use easy keywords to highlight important details.  Fourth, list those keywords in order as they appeared in the passage.  Fifth, trim the list of keywords to make one topic sentence.  Now that we have gone over the five steps, I will model for you using the article Ghost Tigers of the Rain Forest by Fiona Sunquist out of National Geographic Kids October, 2004 issue on pages 20-23."  (Read the article to the children and apply the five steps of summarization - children should help with this process.)  "Now that we have practiced together, I would like for everyone to read this article silently.  When everyone is finished reading, I will show you what it means to summarize when I give you a summary of this article." 

3.    “Now I would like for each of you to turn to page 42 of your National Geographic Kids magazine.  The title of the article is The Great Hawaiian Sea Turtle Rescue and it is by Chana Stiefel.  I would like for everyone to read this article silently.  As  you read, I would like you to ask yourselves questions about what you are reading.  When everyone has finished reading, we will practice summarizing.  We will do this by picking out the most important details and getting rid of the details that are not important or that have been repeated.  As you read, I would also like for you to see if you can sort through these details, what is important and what is not, and we will discuss them when everyone has finished.

4.    “Now that you have read the article and you know what summarizing is and why it is important, we are going to learn the six steps of good summarizing.  Present the following checklists to the children (also have the list on chart paper for all to see):  1.) Delete unimportant information.  2.)  Delete repeated information.  3.)  Substitute easy words for lists of items.  4.)  Add a series of events with an easy action term.  5.)  Select a topic.  6.)  Invent a topic sentence if there is not one.  “It is important to get rid of information that is not important because it may distract us from the more important information.  It is also important for us to get rid of information that has been repeated because it just takes up space and is already known.  When we replace easy words for lists of items, we are able to cut down on how much information we have to remember.  For example,  if we want to remember a list such as chickens, roosters, cows, horses, pigs, and sheep, we can simplify this list by calling it “farm animals.”  We can put each of these animals below the topic “farm animals” to help us remember them better.  We can also incorporate a series of events with an action term to help us better remember what we have read.  Finally, we can select a topic sentence that covers all the information within the text.
5.    Now, let’s talk about what you read in the article.  I am going to draw a picture on the chart paper.  This drawing is called a web.  Webs help us organize our information and understand what we know.  Remember, to look at the summary checklist on our other chart.  Where do I put the main topic on our web? (in the middle).  What should I put in the middle of our web – what is the main topic of what we just read?  (Sea Turtles).  Who can give me a main point from the article about the sea turtles?  Give students a chance to answer and record their answers on the web.  Explain to the children that we should be able to create a paragraph that summarizes the entire article and that we can use the web to help create that summary by using the facts that we recorded.

6.     Now I will pass out the paper for children to make their own individual webs and will have them work in pairs.  “A great way to help us summarize what we have read is by creating a web.  Who can tell me how to begin the web?  That’s right.  We place the topic of the article in the center of the paper (web).  Then we write the facts or pieces of information out to the sides and draw a line to it from the main topic.  Remember to use your checklist to make sure you have used all six steps for summarizing.  If you have any questions, raise your hand and I will be around to help you.”

7.    Assessment:  In order to assess the children’s understanding of summarization, I will observe the children as they work on their web.  I will compare their checklists to their webs and will have each of them write a brief summary paragraph based on their web from the article.  As I check their work, I will make sure they eliminated unimportant, repeated information that was checked of on their lists.


Davis, Marlee – A Web of History

Mauldin, Heather – Is That a Fact?

Anderson, Jenni - Summarization Station:

Pressley, Michael, et al.  (1989)  Strategies That Improve Children’s Memory and Comprehension of Text.  The Elementary School             Journal.  Vol. 90, No. 1.  University of Chicago.

Stiefel, Chana.  The Great Hawaiian Sea Turtle Rescue.  National Geographic Kids.  Nov. 2004. pgs. 42 – 45.

Sunquist, Fiona.  Ghost Tigers of the Rain Forest.  National Geographic Kids.  Oct. 2004. pgs. 20 – 23.


Any Questions or Comments?   e-mail  Milissa King