Sum It Up!

Kim Holzapfel

Reading to Learn


The goal of reading instruction is comprehension.  In order to comprehend text, it is necessary for students to learn strategies that they can use on their own.  Summarization is an effective, research-based strategy that aids children in comprehending text (Pressley, et. al.)  Three rules make up the strategy of summarization:  deleting trivia and redundancies, superordinating items and events, and compositing a statement to cover everything the writer is saying.  In this lesson, students will work in pairs, using these three rules to summarize text.  After the lesson, they will be able to effectively comprehend text by using the summarization strategy on their own.


Computers with internet access to National Geographic Kids website (http://www.

Chalkboard and chalk

Following checklist for each of students :

- Is unimportant or redundant information left our of the summary?

- Are important events and ideas stated?

- Do they state the authorās main idea and supporting details?


Paper, highlighter, and pencil for each student


1.  "When we read, the most important thing we do is to comprehend, or understand, what we are reading.  Comprehending helps us to understand what is happening in a story, or to learn important information from text.  We are going to practice summarizing today.  Summarizing is a strategy you can use on your own to help you comprehend.  We will practice finding the main idea and the details that support it in our article."

2.  "Remember how we have talked about how to read silently?  When we are reading, we should not be saying words out loud.  Instead, we should say them to ourselves, silently, so that we do not disturb our classmates.  I am going to read this sentence out loud and then silently to show you the difference."  (Read the sentence "I went to the zoo to see the kangaroos." out loud.  Then read it silently).  "Do you see the difference?  Now, I want you to read this sentence out loud, and then silently.ä" (Write sentence "I picked the apples off of the tree to make apple pie."  Class will read out loud, then silently to themselves).

3.  "When we summarize text, there are three rules that we use to help us."  (Write on the board as you write).  "They are:  1. Get rid of any unnecessary or repeated information.  2.  Pick out the most important items or events.  3. Write a statement that covers everything the author is trying to say about the topic." 

4.  Read "The Great Koala Rescue" on National Geographic for Kidsā Website to class (  "Now I will follow our three rules of summarizing to help me comprehend this text.  First, I will try to get rid of any unimportant information.  For example, it is not really important that the koala in the story was looking for eucalyptus leaves.  Next, I will take out important events or items.  For example, the koala got its head stuck in the fence.  A park ranger helped to free it.  Last, I will try to make a statement that covers everything I read.  For example, In Australia, a koala got its head stuck in a fence, but a park ranger came to save it by using a tranquilizer and cutting it free."

5.  Now, I want you to summarize this paragraph.  "As lightning flashed around them, Sabrina and her parents ran for cover.  'When it stopped raining, we thought it was safe,'  says Sabrina.  They started to hike back to their car along the trail.  Then zap!   A lightning bolt struck nearby.  It happened so fast that the family didn't know what it hit.  A jolt of electricity shot through their bodies"  (from "Lightning!" in National Geographic for Kids at ( Have the class work together as a whole to work through the three summarization rules.

6.  Give each student a copy of "Cool Things About Elephants" by Aline Alexander Newman ( a brief "article talk" to get them interested in the topic, but be careful not to summarize.

7.  While they read silently, the students will mark through unimportant information with pencils and highlight important ideas or sentences.

8.  After they have read, the students will work in pairs to create a summary by using the three steps of summarization.

9.  For assessment, collect the paragraphs and evaluate them with the following checklist.

- Is unimportant or redundant information left out of the summary?

- Are important events and ideas stated?

- Do they state the author's main idea and supporting details?


Nell Fleming- "1,2,3·A Summary!"

Newman, Aline Alexander.  Cool Things About Elephants.

Musgrave, Ruth. The Great Koala Rescue. ngkids/0503/.

Pressley, Michael, et. al. "Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text." The Elementary School Journal. The University of Chicago (1989).

Skelton, Renee. Lightning.

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