Summarize with Cow Pies

Reading to Learn Lesson Design

Julie Mason



Since the ultimate goal of reading is comprehension, it is important to give children skills to help comprehend. One skill that is useful is to learn and practice summarizing. If they can identify and recall main ideas in a particular passage they will be able to express that they have fully comprehended a passage. In this lesson students will use summarization tips to help them pick out main ideas and summarize a non-fiction article.



One bookmark per student with summarization tips on it.

Summarization tips:

1. Pick out important facts from the passage
2. Remove information that is not very useful, or that does not back up the topic sentences
3. Pick out repeated ideas and delete them.
4. Pick out a topic sentence (create one if one is not provided).

One copy of National Geographic's article Cow Power by Catherine Clarke Fox per student. Copies can be found at:

A transparency of the article, or a document camera to display the article

Access to a computer or additional articles for each student

Pencil and highlighter




-Who can tell me what comprehension means? That's right, it means to understand something. When we read something we want to be able to understand what it is about. One way we can check that we understand is to summarize and today we're going to talk about how to do that.

-Everyone look at your bookmark with the summarization tips. These are the things that we want to remember when we are reading something that we're going to summarize. One thing we want to do is pick out important information and we're going to do that by highlighting it. We want to remove information that is not very useful so we will cross that out with one line with our pencil. We will also cross out things that are repeated. Also, we want to look for the topic sentence, which is the main idea so we can tell what the reading is about. We are going to underline that.

-Now we are going to read an article about cows. This article just isn't about cows though; it is about cow poop! It talks about a farm that is using electricity that comes from cow manure. That sounds crazy! Let's read and find out how they do that.

-Everyone look at your article and let's read it together and use some of these tips. I am going to read it aloud, but remember how we learned to read silently in our heads? We will do that later. (Read the first paragraph aloud.) Okay so what were some important parts? (Highlight them.) What were some things that weren't so important or repeated? (Cross them out.) What about the topic sentence? What do you think that is? (Underline it.)

-Okay let's keep going. I am going to keep reading, and this time you can watch me use my tips. Read: Cows produce a lot of manure. I don't think that is very important so I am going to cross that out. You cross it out too on your paper. One cow can create an incredible 30 gallons (114 liters) of manure each day. That might be more important because it tells me how much. I think we should highlight that. Now imagine the output of over 1000 cows at Blue Spruce Farm. That's one big pile of cow pies. I don't think that last sentence is important so let's cross it out.

-After I am finished reading the whole article I could tell people what it is about or write a paragraph telling what the article is about. I would write about the topic sentence that I underlined or the things that I highlighted. I wouldn't talk about the things that I crossed out because they are not very important. (Create a short summary of the article on the board to model for the students.)

-Now you can pick your own article to summarize! There are lots of other interesting articles on NatGeo Kids so you can look and pick one that you would like to read. (Each student will need a printed article.)

-Now that you have your article, read it to yourself silently and practice using your summarization tips. Remember to highlight, cross-out, or underline. When you are finished, write a short paragraph summarizing the article in your own words. (Have the students turn in the article and the summary. Check the article to see if they highlighted key points, underlined the main idea, and crossed-out unimportant details. Check that the summary has main ideas to determine if they comprehended the article.)



Ashley Baker. Fishing for a Summary.



Cow Power by Catherine Clarke Fox.

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