Let’s Sum it Up!

Leigh Cooper

Reading to Learn

Rational:  As children become better and more fluent readers it is important that they begin to comprehend what they are reading.  To remember the main idea of a   story or paragraph, children must be able to summarize. The goal of this lesson is to teach students how to summarize text. Students will follow steps to find the main idea and important details in what they are reading. These steps to summarization will help students to find meaning in the text.


"The Secret Language of Dolphins" by Crispin Boyer (one per student)

"Lord of the Forest" by Mel White (one per student)

"Minds of their Own" National Geographic article (for read-aloud)

Chart with 5 Steps to Summarization

Paper and pencil (per student)


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining the importance of summarizing. 


Show students chart of five steps.
There are five steps to summarization:

1. Pick out important details that are necessary to the story.
2. Pick out the less important or repeated ideas and eliminate them.
3. Highlight the important and necessary details using key words.
4. Pick a topic sentence
5. Invent a topic sentence if there is none.

"These are five steps that help up to summarize text. Let's go through each one and talk about it. First, we should pick out the important details. When we read, we need to pay attention to what the whole story is about and remember and write down the most important things. Secondly, we need to weed out what isn't as important. Next, we need to look for key words that highlight necessary details. It is also important to pick a topic sentence from the text and if there isn't one, we should invent one."

3. Model the summarization rules by first reading aloud "Minds of their Own" by Virginia Morell.  After reading, explain that summarizing helps you remember the important facts that were illustrated or talked about in the article.  Ask them questions to scaffold thinking such as "What was the most important points talked about in the article?"    "What text or points could you delete?" Then the teacher models how to summarize the article (explaining thought processes aloud).

4. Now divide the students into groups of three or four and have them individually read "Lord of the Forest" by Mel White.  Once they have read the story let them talk among their groups, each giving a summary of the article.  Once each student has given a summary of that article, the teacher will model again the summarization rules and skills. “I would summarize this article like this   (and give your summarization of the article). Some of the information that I thought was least important was ____.  I would delete this section because ____.  The topic sentence in this article is _____.”  This shows them how to organize information in their minds so that they will be able to recall the important facts or information next time.

5. Now have each child read "The Secret Language of Dolphins" by Cripsin Boyer. After reading, each student will write his or her own summary of the story and turn it in. 

For assessment:      When students hand in their work, the teacher should read over it quickly and have a mini-conference with that student about the summary.  Once everyone has written their summary, read some of them to the class (without disclosing the name of the author).  This will show how most summaries are worded differently, but show the same important facts and information. 


Boyer, Crispin.  "The Secret Language of Dolphins".  National Geographic  Kids 2008. http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/Stories/AnimalsNature/Dolphin-language

Morell, Virginia.  "Minds of their Own".  National Geographic.  March 2008.  http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/03/animal-minds/virginia-morell-text

Styles, Kelley.  "Don’t Memorize: Summarize!"


White, Mel.  "Lord of the Forest". National Geographic. Feb 2008. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/02/philippine-eagles/mel-white-text.html


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