Let’s Make a Summary… It’s Easy as 1..2..3..!

                                                                                    Reading to Learn

                                                                                                               Barret Freeman


 The main goal of reading is comprehension.  Many strategies can be taught to students to help them comprehend written text.  One of the most important strategies for children to learn is summarization.  Summarization means locating and pulling out the most important information from a text.  To effectively summarize text, students must follow several rules including: identify main information, delete trivial and redundant information, and relate main and supporting ideas.  In this lesson, students will be taught the steps of summarization.  They will use group practice to further their understanding of this process and then practice summarizing expository articles to gain greater comprehension skills.


·  Smart board

·  Pencil for each student

·  Highlighter for each student

·  “Dead Flies Power Flesh Eating Robot” National Geographics for Kids article displayed on smart board- http://news.nationalgeographic.com/kids/2006/04/robots.html

·  “Bear Mail” National Geographics for Kids article for each student- http://news.nationalgeographic.com/kids/2004/10/bear.html

·  “NASA Planning Travels to Moon and Mars” National Geographics for Kids article for each student- http://news.nationalgeographic.com/kids/2005/10/moon.html

·  Summarization check (1 for each student for assessment…attached to bottom of lesson)

·  Summarization rules poster to hang in classroom (with the 3 summarization rules written on it)

·  Sentences to write on board for practice with silent reading (“I love to go to the zoo and watch the animals” and “My dad always enjoys watching my baseball games”)

·  Dry erase board and markers?

·  Comprehension questions for NASA article (1.Why does NASA want to send astronauts to the moon? 2.What plans do they have after reaching the moon?)



1.“The purpose of reading is comprehension.  This basically means that we read to understand what we are reading.  Sometimes we read just for fun and other times we read to learn something new.  Summarizing is a great strategy that can be used to help us find the most important information in a text.  This strategy will really help you to better understand what you are reading.”

2.“Recently we have been working on reading silently (in our heads).  I want us to take a few moments to practice that before we learn our new summarization strategy.  I am going to write a sentence on the board and read it aloud to you.” (write ‘I love to go to the zoo and watch the animals’).  Read the sentence aloud for students to hear.  “Now I will read the sentence silently for you.” (read silently but move lips…exaggerated).  “Well, that was better, but now I want to read it completely to myself (without moving my lips or making any noise).”  (read the sentence again, but this time completely silently…looking like I am in “deep” thought).  “Now it’s your turn.  Read this sentence silently to yourself. (write the sentence ‘My dad always enjoys watching my baseball games’ on the board for students to practice with). 

3.“Now we are going to move on to summarizing.  I want everyone to remember that it is as easy as 1, 2, 3!  Step 1: Get rid of any unnecessary or repeated information, Step 2: Pick out the most important items or events (use keywords to highlight important ideas), Step 3: Write a strong topic sentence containing the main ideas that the author is trying to convey to the reader about a specific topic.”  Display a poster with the three steps clearly written on it.  This will allow students to refer back for help if they get stuck. 

4.“I am going to show you how I would use these steps to summarize a National Geographics article entitled Dead Flies Power Flesh Eating Robots.” Give an article talk about the article to get students interested in reading (ask intriguing questions and tell a little of what the article is about).  Display the article on the smart board for all students to see.  Read the article aloud, using a marker to cross out any unimportant information while reading.  Be sure to tell the students why you feel the information is not important and does not need to be remembered (ex. “Well, we don’t need to try to remember all of the robots’ names or that labs that they were built in…those are just trivial facts that don’t contribute to the main idea of the article.  Scientists seem to be important in this article.”)  After reading the article and crossing out the trivial details, go through and write a sentence on the board that sums up the whole article.  My sentence is: Scientists have invented a robot that feeds on insects (instead of batteries) so that it can travel to dark, dangerous places that do not have electricity for scientific research.  Read the sentence to students and make sure that they understand why this sentence is a good summarization of the article.

Dead Flies Power Flesh Eating Robot

Robots are supposed to run on batteries, right?  Well not all of them.  Scientists in England have built a series of small robots that get their energy from dead flies, rotten apples, or sugar.  One robot, called Slugbot, was even designed to hunt garden slugs for dinner!  What’s up with all that gross food?  Well, scientists at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory want to invent robots that can operate for long periods of time in dark, dirty, or dangerous places.  Many of those spots, like the seafloor or Antarctica, don’t have electrical sockets.  So inventor Chris Melhuish came up with a better idea: Build robots that get their energy just like animals do- by hunting and eating food from their environment.  The robots digest their grub in a series of stomach-like devices called microbial fuel cells that are full of bacteria.  The bacteria do the real eating, munching deal flies or other food fed into the fuel cells.  As the bacteria chow down, they release electrons.  Electrons are charged particles that flow to form electricity.  One robot, called Ecobot II, could run for 12 days on a diet of 8 flies! (You’d still get a lot more power from one AA battery, though.)  Melhuish says his team is now working on a new and improved robot, called Ecobot III, which will have a better digestion system.  It seems that after an eight-fly dinner, Ecobot II couldn’t get rid of the leftover “waste.”  Maybe restrooms in the future will have signs for boys, girls, and robots.

5.Place the students in small groups and have them work as a team to summarize the National Geographics Article Bear Mail.  Give an article talk to get students interested in reading the article.  “I want each group to read the article together, taking turns reading out loud.  While you read, make sure to cross out the trivial information with your pencil.  Also, use your highlighter to highlight the information that you feel is very important.  After you finish reading the article, come up with a sentence that gives me the main details from the article.  I want the sentence to be something that you can easily remember.”  Pass out a copy of the article to each student.  Also give each student a pencil and highlighter to use.

6.“Now that you have had time to practice in your groups, it’s time to summarize an article on your own.  I know that you can do it!  Remember, it’s easy as 1, 2, 3!  Be sure to use your pencil and highlighter while you read the article.  This will help you come up with your summary sentence at the end of the article.”  Give each student a copy of the National Geographics Article NASA Planning Travels to Moon and Mars.  Give another article talk for the students before they begin reading. 

7.For assessment, I will take up the NASA articles to look for pencil marks (cross out unimportant ideas) and highlighter marks (highlighting important ideas).  This will show me if the students followed directions and used the summarization steps that they were taught.  I will also take up the students’ summaries.  From these, I will be able to tell if the students truly understand the summarization process and its importance in text comprehension.  I will use a summarization checklist to help with my assessment.  I will also ask the students to answer some comprehension questions (because the purpose of reading is comprehension). 

Comprehension Questions:

1.Why does NASA want to send astronauts to the moon?

2.What plans do they have after reaching the moon?


Summarization Checklist:

____ Used pencil to mark out all (or most) trivial facts

____ Used highlighter to identify important information

____ Created a summary sentence that fully captures the main idea of the article



Meredith Mosely. Reading Genie Website. Super Duper Summarizer!

Shelly Horton. Reading Genie Website. 1, 2, 3…Summing It Up!

National Geographics For Kids Article. Dead Flies Power Flesh Eating Robots.

National Geographics For Kids Article. NASA Planning Travels to Moon and Mars.

National Geographics For Kids Article. BearMail.

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