Reading To Learn


What Did I Just Read?


Elaine Sirota


Rationale: Comprehension is a major goal of reading.  To comprehend the meaning of text, students must know certain strategies in order to be successful.  Form a topic sentence that captures the meaning of a paragraph is an effective type of summarization that improves memory of text information.  This lesson will help students learn how to form a topic sentence as a form of summarization.  They will accomplish this through modeling and practice.


-         Copies of Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan for each child

-         Paper for each child

-         Pencil for each child

-         Chalk board and chalk

-         Assessment checklist

1. Introduce lesson by explaining that many times when we read, we are trying to learn something, and other times we are reading for fun.  Sometimes it is hard to learn what we need to because there is so much information in the textbook.  Many times there is a lot of extra, unimportant information in the text.  An easy way to remember what we read is to find the main idea in the paragraph and form a topic sentence for that paragraph.

2. To gain the class’ interest in the book, I will give them a short book talk on the book Sarah Plain and Tall. “It is about two children, Caleb and Anna that live with their father, Jacob on a farm.  Their mother died years ago, so for many years it has just been the children and their father.  Well, now their father wants to find a wife, so he puts an ad out seeking a wife.  Sarah replies to his ad and comes to live with the family for a short while to see how things work out.  We will have to read the book to find out how things end up.”

3. Before they start reading, I will go over the summarization strategy. I will explain to the class that every so often they need to stop and think about the paragraph or page that they just read and refresh in their mind what they just read. I will tell they class that they can do this by writing or thinking of a single sentence that summarizes the entire section.

4.  They need to understand that they should delete repeated and useless information. "Class you shouldn’t worry about small details that have little to no effect on the main point of the text." I will model this for them by reading the first page of Sarah Plain and Tall. To do this I will read the first page of the story aloud and list a few review sentences on the board. To make sure that they clearly understand summarization, I will let them choose the sentence that best sums up the passage that I read aloud to them. We will then discuss what makes one sentence better than the others.

5.  At this time I would like for you to take out a piece of paper and a pencil. You will read chapter 1 to yourselves silently. First we must be reminded how to read silently. “Who can tell me what it means when I say to read silently?” Allow time for students to respond. “Right, silent reading is when we read to ourselves, not out loud, and when our eyes are following along in the text. Who can tell me why we read silently?” Allow time for students to respond. “Good, we do this because it helps us understand what we are reading.”

6. After reading the rest of the chapter I want you to write a summary of what you just read. Make sure you only write the details that you think are important and do not forget to put it in your own words.

7. For assessment, the teacher will collect all of the student’s papers to see if each student was able to pick out the important information in the chapter and correctly summarized the chapter.  The teacher will have a checklist that she makes up to see that the children have hit all of the important points.


MacLachlan, Patricia.  Sarah Plain and Tall.  Harper & Row:  1985.

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