Sum it All Up!

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Reading to Learn

Audrey Stockdale

  Comprehension is a very important part of reading successfully.  Summarization helps children build their comprehension skills.  Children should be able to pick out the important parts of the text each time they read. There are several strategies that help students comprehend reading material.  These strategies include pick out important ideas, eliminate less important details, and organize the important ideas into one main idea.  In this lesson, students will learn about how they can use these strategies to comprehend reading in articles, books, and other print.


--     Paper and pencils for each student

-      Dry erase board and dry erase markers (or chalkboard and chalk)

--     Colored pencils

-      Poster with three summarization techniques (Pick out important ideas; Eliminate less important details; Organize the important ideas into one main idea)

      --    Article for each child -Orcas (Killer Whales)

     --      Poster with paragraph: There are millions of bugs in the world. Different bugs live in different climates and places. My favorite bug is                      the beetle.

1.   Ask the children, “Does anyone know what summarization is?”  Discuss summarization as a class.  “Summarization is picking out the important facts out of a book or passage that you are reading.  When you summarize, you don’t focus on all the details. You just focus on the most important details. I would like everyone to pay close attention because today, we’re going to learn how to summarize.  Summarizing will help you become better readers, and good readers summarize so they can comprehend what they are reading. First, we’re going to read silently at our desks.  Can anyone tell me how we read silently at our desks?  You got it!  We read to ourselves, and we don’t talk to anyone around us.”

 2.  “There are three steps to summarizing a story.”  Read the students a short paragraph of the article and model how to summarize it.  For example, the article Grossology.  (  Point to the poster with the summarization techniques on it.  “Before we begin reading, let’s go over the three important things to remember when you read.  The first step is to pick out important ideas from the story. Let's look at this paragraph for example.Make sure you pick out the most important ideas! ( Ex. Look, I think this is a very important idea, it tells us an estimate of all the different kinds of bugs in the world.) Then we throw away the details that are not important. (Ex. I don’t think this one is too important because it says the beetle is the writer’s favorite bug. That doesn’t really tell us something important about bugs, does it? I didn’t think so either. Let’s mark that out.) Last we organize the important ideas and make one main idea of the story.” (Ex. There are many different kinds of bugs in the world. Different bugs live in different places. Etc.)

3.   Has anyone ever heard of Orcas, or Killer Whales? Where do they live? Do you think that they are real killers? Let's read and find out about Killer Whales. Pass out and introduce the article to each student. I would like everyone to read the first paragraph of this article it’s called Orcas-Killer Whales. I will know when you are finished because all eyes will be on me. Have students read silently through the first paragraph of the article before focusing on the summarization techniques.  Go over the summarization techniques again, and then have the students reread the first paragraph of the article. Who can tell me some important ideas here? Great, we should keep those.  Tell them, “Now, when you read the story the second time, cross out all the information that isn’t important to the story with a pencil, circle the sentences that you think are important and then finally, take all the circled sentences and combine them into a sentence or two that summarizes the whole article.” Which sentences did you mark out? I do not think those were too important either. (It would be helpful to write this information on the dry erase/chalk board.) Encourage students to really keep in mind the three summarization techniques.  Have students write down the facts that they think are important.  Model three facts that you (teacher) think are important after they read theirs aloud.  This will help students understand what they should do later.   

4.    Now, the students should have a basic understanding of how to summarize a story since they have had practice.  Pass out a piece of paper to each student.  Tell them to make three columns.  In the first column, they should put “Deleted Information.”  In the second column, they should put “Important Facts.”  In the third column, they should put “Most Important Ideas.”  Explain to them to fill in information from the story into the three columns.  Model using the first paragraph again.  This is a great way to scaffold for the students.  If a student continues to have problems putting the information into the columns on paper, allow them to continue using cross out/circle method.  “Please finish reading your article silently. You should have three columns on your paper, write the sentences in the column that they fit under as you read the article, if it helps continue to cross out unimportant information and circle important stuff. Remember to write down all of your information as you go.”

5.    Continue to practice summarization strategies so that students can successfully master the skill of summarizing.


 You can check students’ summarization skills by asking comprehension questions from the article.  For example, what did the Killer Whales eat? Where do they live?


Let’s Summarize- Jane Moncrief

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