Learning to Summarize

Laura Charlton

Reading to Learn


Because it is important for children to be able to focus on the main points in a passage and understand what they are reading, it is important to teach children strategies to help them improve in comprehension. One strategy to improve their comprehension is summarization. As students begin reading expository texts, it is crucial that they be taught how to eliminate trivial facts so they can understand the main idea better. Explicit instruction is needed to help students read and recall information on what they have read. This lesson will provide students with summarization tools that they will practice when using an expository article and a graphic organizer.


Children’s articles: New “Rainbow Glow” Jellyfish Found and “Megamouth Shark Picture: Ultra-Rare Shark Found Eaten”, from National Geographic News.
Smartboard and markers (or projector)
Dry erase board
Dry erase board markers
Bookmark checklist for summarizing:
1. Delete unimportant information
2. Delete repeated information
3. Highlight the important and necessary details using key words.
4. Choose a topic.
5.Create a topic sentence if there is not one.


1.    “Today we are going to learn how to summarize. This is a very helpful strategy to use when reading. Can anyone tell me what it means to summarize something?” See if students have some kind of background knowledge that summarizing involves reading a text and picking out the important parts or main ideas and deleting the information that isn’t important.

2.    I will pass out the bookmark checklists to the class. “I am going to teach you six simple steps to help you learn how to summarize”. I will thoroughly explain each of the six steps which include: deleting unimportant and repeated information, highlighting the important words, choosing a topic, and creating a topic sentence if there is not one already given.

3.    “Now that you know what it means to summarize and how to do it I am going to show you another strategy. When you are summarizing it can be very helpful to use a graphic organizer to map out the key points or details. This can make it really easy to look back at the key points and remember what the article or story was about.”

4.    At this point I will pull up the article “Ultra-Rare Shark Found Eaten” onto the Smartboard. “ This article is very similar to the one you are going to read.” I will read the short article to the class so I can model how to summarize to the students. “While I am reading the story to myself I am thinking about what points are the most important. For example I know the article is about Megamouth Sharks so I am going to write that in the middle of my web (draw on the dry erase board). As I re-read, the article the first important fact that I notice is that the shark was very rare so I am going to draw a line out on my web and write that fact because it is important to know why this shark was so special. As I continue reading the article I notice that the quote by Yokelee Lee is really not very important so I am going to cross that out. Who can tell me the next important fact in the article?” After modeling twice, scaffold the students to begin finding important facts on their own. Finish summarizing the article by completing the web using the checklist. Write the important information and topic sentence on the web and delete all the unnecessary information.

5.    Now give each student a copy of the article “Rainbow Glow”, a piece of paper and a pencil. Have the children read the article silently to themselves. Then have them summarize the article by using their bookmark to help remind them of the steps.

6.    Finally have them create a map or web that summarizes the article.


I will have the students turn in their webs and compare them to the checklist on the bookmark. The students will also use their webs to write a summary of the text. I will evaluate the summary to see if students identify the steps listed on the checklist.


Fain, Lizzie. “Let’s Get It Together”

Simpson, Cassie. “To Sum It All Up…”

“Megamouth Shark Picture: Ultra-Rare Shark Found”, National Geographic. April 13, 2009.

“New ‘Rainbow Glow’ Jellyfish Found”, National Geographic. April 13, 2009.

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