Reading to Learn Design:  In Your Own Words
Amy Strickland

Rationale: Teachers can use children's summaries of text to see whether they are comprehending what they are reading.  Some children have a lot of trouble with this strategy and therefore need instruction on how to go about summarizing text.  This lesson will show how teachers can teach children a very important step to learning to summarize, how to pick out main topics.

Materials: Board, chalk, paper, pencil, America's Regions and Regions of the World, random paragraphs pulled from children's' expository books.


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that summarizing is an important skill to master.  It helps students study because it is a way for them to review for tests and quizzes, while it helps teachers assess what students are learning as well as if they are comprehending what they are reading.  Today I am going to teach you one of the first steps to summarizing and that is picking out the main topic.
2. I will read this paragraph to you and then I will find the main topic of it.  The teacher will read the paragraph.  Now I will write down (on the board) what I think this paragraph is trying to get across.  I will write words or sentences to brainstorm about what the main topic is.  Then I will put it into a formal sentence.  I will make sure that it is in my own words because if I merely copy a sentence from the paragraph then that is not really summarizing.  Summarizing has to be in your own words.
3. Now I want you to try one.  I will read a paragraph and I want you to brainstorm on your paper what the main topic is as I read.  You may write down words or sentences or even draw a picture.  Then I will give you about five minutes to use your notes to come up with one main topic sentence to summarize what this paragraph is saying.  Remember that it must be in your own words.
4. Now let's review how to read silently because usually we use the technique of summarization along with reading silently.  First we begin reading aloud, then move down to a whisper, then we read without making any noise, and last is not even moving our lips and just thinking the words to ourselves silently.  Let's use the paragraph that we just read to practice this.  We will all begin reading at the same time and when I say so you will change from reading aloud, to whispering, then to just moving your lips, and then to thinking the words to yourself so that no one can hear you.  Ok, let's begin.
5. Now we are going to combine the last two strategies, picking out the main topic and reading silently, into one activity.  I will give you another paragraph (not every child will have the same paragraph) and you will first read it silently, brainstorming on your paper as you read.  Then I want you to summarize the main topic by remembering what you read and by using your notes in front of you. You will have about twenty minutes to do this.
6. Now I would like for every one of you to take out your social studies books.  We are going to use them to work on finding the main topic in each paragraph that we read.  Turn in your books to page 194.  You will read the first lesson that spans from 194-198.  I want you to find the main topic of each paragraph that you read using this same technique that we have been using. When you are finished you will turn them in to me.
7. Assessment will include their work from their social studies book as well as a journal entry about what they think the main topic of a paragraph is and how they went about finding it.  The teacher will read all work and journal entries making revisions and constructive comments on their work.  She will then give them back to the children for feedback and further instruction.

Armbruster, Bonnie B., Mitsakos, Charles L., and Rogers, Vincent R. America's Regions
  and Regions of the World. Ginn and Company. Lexington, MA. (1987). 194-198.

Pressley, M., Johnson, C. J., Symons, S., McGoldrick, J. A., and Kurity, J. A. (1998).
 Strategies that improve children's memory and comprehension of text.
 The Elementary School Journal, 90, 3-32.

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