Reading to Learn lesson design
Allison Felton

Sum It Up to Learn the Most!

Rationale:  There are many aspects to reading that are extremely important.  Reading to learn information is one example.  In order to gain meaning from text, children must learn how to summarize what is important in what they read.  This lesson, through modeling and practice, will teach children this important aspect to the reading process.

Materials:  Individual copies of Weather (Doubleday Publishing) by:  Howard E. Smith; poster with summarization steps; butcher paper; copy of the first three paragraphs entitled "Wind" on pg. 13 of Weather; poster with these steps listed:

 1.  Delete unimportant information
 2.  Delete repeated information
 3.  Substitute easy terms for lists of items
 4.  Add a series of events with an easy action term
 5.  Select a topic sentence
 6.  Invent a topic sentence if there is none


1.  "Before we begin talking about summarization, I want us to review what it means to read silently.  Can anyone tell me how to do this?  Good!  We must speak inside our heads as we read words, instead of out loud so that we do not disturb others.  It will be very important today for us to read silently as we work on learning how to summarize what we read in books."

2.  "Does anyone know what the word summary means?  Correct!  A summary is a brief description of any part of a text that tells the main idea of what was read.  Let me show you what I mean.  I am going to read to you about tornadoes.  (Read the first paragraph on pg. 27 of Weather).  Now, from this paragraph I learned that tornadoes start when a layer of wind above the ground moves faster than the wind near the ground.  Also, a tornado's funnel can be miles long.  Did I tell you everything that I just read?  No!  I summarized the paragraph and told you the most important ideas.

3.  I can also try to find that topic sentence for this paragraph to help summarize.  Sometimes topic sentences are at the beginning or the end of a paragraph, or sometimes they are not there at all.  The paragraph we just read does not have a topic sentence, so can anyone tell me what a good topic sentence could be?  You're right!  We could say that tornadoes can form when hot and cold air mix and they can be shaped like a long funnel."

4.  "What we just learned about finding or creating topic sentences is one of six important rules about learning how to summarize.  Also, as we learn what is and isn't important in what we read it is helpful to keep these six rules in mind.  You can find these rules on the poster by the chalkboard. Let's talk about each.

5.  "Now, we have a lot of main ideas on the board from what we read just a minute ago.  What can we do with them?  Good!  We can create a web.  First, I'm going to write the word "tornadoes" in the middle and circle it.  Next, I am going to draw lines away from the circle and add the most important words, phrases, and sentences I found that best summarize the topic of tornadoes."

6.  "Okay!  Now that we know a little bit more about summarization, I would like for you to try.  I want each of you to find a partner and read in the Weather book about either hurricanes, rainfall, snow, or hailstorms.  I would like for one person to read the first paragraph, and the second person the read the next paragraph, and so on.  Once you have finished, make a web of the important words, phrases, and main ideas you read about to summarize the topic, and write a topic sentence at the bottom.  Draw your web on the butcher paper in front of you."

7.  The children will now present their webs to the class and we will discuss together whether or not each group's web summarizes what they read.

Assessment:  I will ask the children to read silently the first three paragraphs of the "Wind" worksheet.  After they finish reading, they will write a summary about what they just read, including a topic sentence.  I will collect their papers and check to see how well they can summarize.  If any of the children do poorly on this assessment, I will conference with them individually to provide extra help.


Pressley, Michael, et al. (1989). "Strategies that Improve Children's     Memory and Comprehension of Text." The Elementary Journal. Volume 90, Number 1. University of Chicago: Chicago, Illinois. Pages 90, 3-32.  ("Summarization Mapping"  by: Lindsay Dean)

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