Reading to Learn


Sum it all up

Leslie Rosebrough

After becoming a fluent reader, and moving on to more lengthy reading material, it is important to develop summarization skills. In learning how to summarize, children will learn how to pick out important facts which will help them understand the text more clearly and deeply when recalling the story or article. 

Materials: A copy of  James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl for each student, paper,  pencils and a highlighter.  Chalkboard and chalk.


  1. "Before beginning a new lesson today, pull out Bridge to Terabithia. Let’s review reading silently.  I want you to open the book and read the first paragraph on the first page by beginning with a whisper.  Then I want you to go from a whisper to just moving your lips until no sound comes out."
  2. Teacher will discuss the term summarization – the importance of picking important information out of the text. "Summarization is a very powerful strategy to use when reading.  By summarizing, you are forgetting the trivial details and focusing on the main parts, the most important information of the text. Today we are going to learn how to summarize from the popular book, James and the Giant Peach."
  3. Introduce book to students by giving a book talk. "James accidentally drops some magic crystals by an old peach tree and strange things start happening.  The peach begins growing and growing…and growing… until it is as big as a house! James crawls inside and meets some friends, a grasshopper, a centipede an earthworm and more… With a snip of the stem the peach starts rolling away only to begin an adventure… Read James and the Giant Peach to find out what happens on their adventure."
  4. Have children read the first chapter silently.  When done reading, write on the board three important summarization steps:
    1. Delete trivial information.
    2. Delete redundant information.
    3. Form a topic sentence from important information.

4.  Have a question and answer time by asking specific short answer comprehension questions such as: Who is the main character? What happened to James family?  Who did he live with as a result?  What was his life like with them?

  1. Teacher will read aloud the first page of Chapter one. Text is as follows:

HERE is James Henry Trotter when he was about four years old.  Up until this time, he had had a happy life, living peacefully with his mother and father in a beautiful house beside the sea.  There were always plenty of other children for him to play with, and there was a sandy beach for him to run about on, and the ocean to paddle in. It was the perfect life for a small boy.  Then, one day, James mother and father went to London to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinoceros
which had escaped from the London Zoo.  

6.    After reading, go back through the paragraph and point out the important parts. Have children highlight them.  "Look at the first sentence. Is it important that we remember the main characters full name- James Henry Trotter or just his first name James? His middle name and last name are trivial details that aren’t going to be something we need to remember when reading this book. Highlight James, because his name is something important we need to remember." Continue through the paragraph discussing sentence by sentence what is important. Weed through the trivial details.

  1. Have someone read first paragraph of chapter two.  Make two columns on the board- IMPORTANT and NON-IMPORTANT.  Call on students to go through paragraph and list out the important things and trivial details as a class.  "By looking at the IMPORTANT column, who can form one topic sentence to summarize the first paragraph? I want each of you to write a topic sentence on your paper."  Have students share topic sentences.

8.   Have children read the rest of Chapter two silently.  Have children write on paper a summary of chapter by combining topic sentences from each paragraph.

  1. Assessment: Collect children’s papers and read over summaries to make sure children have grasped concept of summarization. Check for topic sentences and important information.  Take off one point for each trivial detail listed. 



 Dahl, Ronald.  James and the Giant Peach.  New York: Puffin Books, 1961.

Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia.  New York: Harper Trophy, 1987.

Pressley, Michael. Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text.  The Elementary School Journal. Volume 90, no.1. 1989.

“Summing it all up in a Nutshell”
Misti Willoughby

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