Summarization Time

Reading to Learn Design


Jennifer Kate Hall


Rationale:  An important goal in reading is comprehension. To comprehend meanings of written text, students need to learn how to apply certain techniques in order to have a better understanding of what they are reading. Summarizing is one of the best techniques students can use because it helps them find meaning in what they are reading. This lesson is designed to teach children summarization steps, how to pull key points out of a story, and how to put those key points together to summarize the most important information in written text.

 Materials:  Individual copies of Stellaluna by Janell Cannon for each student, paper, pencils, board


1.  Begin by telling the students the importance of summarizing what they read is to help them better understand the text. Say: Can anyone tell me what a summary is? [no answer] Well, a summary is picking out the main points in a story or passage. For example, I am going to tell you a short story, and I want you to listen for the important parts within the story. I once had a puppy named Chester. He was my best friend, and we spent a lot of time together.  Over many years, he grew and grew until he wasn’t a puppy anymore. He was bigger than me! Recently, he got sick. So he is having to go to the animal doctor and take medicine. I take good care of him, and I think he is getting better. The doctor says he will be okay eventually. I can not wait until he gets well. Now, what do you think the MOST important information is in that story? [That the dog Chester is sick and has to go to the doctor to take medicine. Also that he will be okay after some time.] That’s right! All that other stuff about the dog growing and them spending time together is not really that important for you to know what this story is trying to tell you. Basically, this story is about a sick dog that will get better soon, once it visits the animal doctor. It is very important that all of you learn how to summarize so you can understand the things you read. Let’s start by learning some steps to remember when summarizing. (Written on board). 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 6. Invent a topic sentence if there is none  Say: Boys and girls, if you will remember these six steps, you will easily learn how to summarize what you read.

2. As a class, read the first four pages in Stellaluna aloud. The teacher will read as the students follow along in their personal copies. After reading, ask questions in the form of who, what, when, where, and why. For instance, Who is the main character in the book? What is the biggest event so-far that has caused this character to be in a problem? Where did Stellaluna find herself? To show the students certain points that are unnecessary to know, ask questions about insignificant aspects of the story. For example, How long did Stelluluna hang on the first branch? Or How did she land in the nest of the birds?  

3.  As a class, reread the four pages and emphasize the six steps in summarization. Go through each page and model how the students can apply these steps. For instance, have them invent a topic sentence to summarize these pages of the story. They might come up with something like, “Stellaluna, who fell from her mothers arms when a bat attacked them, found herself in an unfamiliar nest of birds.” 

4.  Have the students finish reading the rest of the book silently. Say: Now I want you to start over and read the entire book. Remember our six steps for summarization. I want you to just read for the MOST important facts that tell the story. When you are finished, you may reread the text or sit quietly until everyone else finishes. Please begin.

5. When all the students finish, have them pair up into partners. Say: Now I want you to get with a partner and discuss the key points within this story. As a team, you should come up with a list of what you think are the MOST important facts in this book. Remember to apply our steps, and keep it a short as possible without leaving out anything necessary to understand what happened in this story.

6.  Have the pairs of students join with another pair to compare their summaries. Say: Find another pair of partners, and see what you came up with. Help each other apply our steps. You can add any information you left out at the bottom, or delete something you realized was not necessary to know.

7.  Discuss the final products as a class. Assess students by taking up the summaries. Make sure to tell the students to check their summaries for left out information or unessential information. The summaries will be checked to see if the students comprehend summarization and have obtained the steps to summarize stories or events. When reviewing the summaries, I will look for evidence that the students used the provided steps, and presented a completed summary based on the text Stelleluna.  


Cannon, Janell. Stellaluna. (1993). New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Pressley, Michael. “Strategies That Improve Children’s Memory and Comprehension of Text” The Elementary School Journal. Volume 90, number 1. pages 3-32. 1989.

Wallingsford, Darby. (Spring 2003). “Reading to Learn: Summarization Made
Easy.” A Reading To Learn Lesson Design created by Darby Wallingsford. Auburn University Reading Genie Website: retrieved 11/16/03. 

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