I Can Answer That!

Summarization and Story Grammar

Reading to Learn

-Susan Ross



Students must learn to recognize the structure of stories. When students are given instruction in story structure, their comprehension can improve. This lesson will teach students a strategy of asking themselves specific questions throughout the story to help them comprehend the text. The students will use the questions to summarize each chapter and then explain it to the class.


Pencils (per student)

Story Map (with questions written on it) (questions are listed in procedures) (per pair/groups of students)

List these questions on a piece of paper for the story map:

a) Who is the main character(s)?, b) Where and when did the story/chapter take place?, c) What did the characters do?, d) How did the story/chapter end?, e) How did the main character(s) feel?

Book: Norton, Mary.(1981). The Borrowers. Harcourt.Inc.

1 Copy of each chapter (one chapter per pair/group of students--20 chapters in all)


  1. INTRO:
  2. Say: It is very important when we read, to understand what is read. We have started reading chapter books and they are a lot longer than what we are used to. Sometimes we may read just one chapter and have to come back to the book later. So, we need to remember what that chapter was about so the next chapter makes sense.

    Say: Okay, I am going to teach you a trick to use while you read. If you ask yourself 5 questions as you read, it will help you to remember what you read.

    I am going to ask myself these questions and write the answers on this piece of paper called a story map: a) Who is the main character(s)?, b) Where and when did the story/chapter take place?, c) What did the characters do?, d) How did the story/chapter end?, e) How did the main character(s) feel?

  3. Do a book talk to get students interested in the story.
  4. Say: "We are going to read a story about people who live in an old house. These people are not like us, the are tiny people called Borrowers. They live in a house with people our size called human "beans". They borrow the things they need from them but they can never be seen by them. If a Borrower is ever seen by a human "bean", they will disappear. One day, one of them is seen by a human "bean". Lets read and find out what happens!"

  5. MODEL: Read the first chapter to the students as they read silently. Answer the questions on the board or overhead as you go.
  6. Sample dialogue: (After you have read the first couple of pages you can answer some of the questions For instance, you can say something like this...)

    Say: Let's see if we can answer any more of our questions on our story map. How about this one. What did the characters do? Can anyone answer that? Well, Mrs. May is telling Kate about the borrowers. They have taken something from Kate and she does not understand why. Let's write that down and keep reading to find out more.

  7. Pass out chapters 2 through 19 to the pairs/groups of students. Save chapter 20 to do at the end of the lesson together. Pass out pencils and story maps.
  8. Say: Now I want you to work with your partner(s). Read your chapter and ask yourself these questions. Sometimes you may not have answers for some of the questions, but do your best to find one.

    When we are all finished we will share our chapters with the class. Then, together we will read the last chapter to end the story.

  9. Assessment:
  1. After discussing all of the chapters, give the students questions to answer from the whole story to see if they remember what you went over.
  2. Sample Questions: Who was the first to see the Borrowers and what did they do when the saw them? Who are the main or important characters in this story? What was your favorite part of the story? What are some of the things that went wrong in this story? Are the Borrowers mean?

  3. Make a checklist to see if the students used their story maps to comprehend the


Example: The students use the strategy on their own.

                       The students gave logical answers to show their comprehension.

                       The students left out the trivial information and kept the important

                       information. Etc.


For more ideas on teaching summarization:

Pressley, M.,Johnson, C.J., Symons, S., McGoldrick, J. A., & Kurity, J. A. (1989). Strategies that improve children's memory and comprehension of text. The Elementary School Journal, 90, 3-32.

-Book: Norton, Mary.(1981). The Borrowers. Harcourt.Inc.

For more lessons on summarization visit:

Reading To Learn by Mark Gullion:

        Remembering What We Read by Laura Lansdon:

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