That Sums It Up!

By Susanna Pate

Reading to Learn


Rationale:  Being able to summarize helps the reader to comprehend what they read easily and efficiently.  Summarizing also teaches students how to select important information and leave out the insignificant details.  In this lesson, students will learn to delete unimportant information, pick out the key details, and create a topic sentence.


1.     Chart with the four rules of summarization:

1. Eliminate repeated or unimportant information

2. Pick out important details

3.  3. Highlight important key words

     4. Find or develop a topic sentence

      Bookmark with the four rules of summarization written on it.

1.     Eliminate repeated or unimportant information

2.     Pick out important details

3.  Highlight important key words

 4. Find or develop a topic sentence

3.     Article for each child: A Big Day for America! by Robin Terry.

4.     Article for each child: Harriet Tubman: Civil War Spy by Catherine Clarke Fox

5.     Highlighters

6.     Pencils

7.     Paper

8.     Overhead projector

9.     Rubric that shows if students:  delete trivia and repeated info, locates important information, composes a topic sentence that summarizes the what the author said in the article.

Comprehension questions: What was the authors’ purpose for writing this article? What is one thing you learned about the setting of the article? Can you tell me how Harriet Tubman received her information?


1.     To begin the lesson the teacher should ask the class, “Who can tell me what comprehension is? What we remember after we have finished reading is comprehension. Today we are going to talk about summarization. Can anyone tell me why we summarize? That is right, to summarize what we have read helps us to increase our comprehension.  We are going to learn how to take out information that we do not need, pick out what is important, and also how to write a topic sentence about what we have just read.

2.     Next the teacher will go over the chart with the five rules of summarization. “Students, the first rule of summarization is to pick out the important details of the story. The second is to eliminate repeated or unimportant information. The third step is to highlight important key words and the fourth step is to find or develop a topic sentence.  I will keep this chart up front for you to refer to. I am also passing out bookmarks that have the rules written on it for you to keep.”

3.     Now, the teacher will pass out the first article, A Big Day for America! This is the article the teacher will use to model how to summarize. The teacher will place his/her copy on the overhead projector for everyone to see. 

The teacher will first read the article out loud to the class. Then after it is read once the teacher will say to the students, “Okay, now that I have read the article, I want to take out the trivia or useless information. Call on students to help take out the useless information. “Who can tell me a fact or sentence that we can cross out? Good job! Now I want you to cross out the useless information on your copy.   

Now that we have crossed out the useless information, let’s highlight the important facts. Pass out highlighters to each of the students.  Raise your hand if you can tell me some important facts. Call on some of the students to point out important facts and sentences. “Now I want you to highlight the important facts we have found.” Have them highlight as you highlight your copy. Let’s see what we have come up with, ‘Before the Mayflower, three ships landed in North America. The settlers moved onto the Indian’s land. The two groups sometimes got along; they fought when food became scarce.’ Nice Job!”

4.     Teacher says to the class: “Now that we have found the important facts we need to develop a topic sentence.  To write your topic sentence look at the information you highlighted. The teacher should walk around the room helping students when needed.

5.     After everyone is finished writing their topic sentence the teacher should call on a few to students and have them read theirs to the class. “Those were all very good sentences. Let’s go over the rules one more time. 1. Eliminate repeated or unimportant information. 2. Pick out important details. 3. Highlight important key words and 4. Find or develop a topic sentence. Very Nice!”

6.     Next, the teacher will hand out a different article for the students to practice summarizing. “Now that we have learned how to summarize I am going to give you another article in order for you to have more practice.  The article is called Harriet Tubman: Civil War Spy by Catherine Clarke Fox. This article is about Harriet Tubman. She was a former slave who helped the Union army, during the Civil War, free slaves.  What she did was a very courageous act. What do you think happened to Harriet Tubman? Was she successful in freeing the slaves or was she caught by the Confederate Army? To find out we are going to have read! After you read the article silently, cross out the trivia and highlight the important details. When you are finished write your topic sentence to summarize the article. If you need any help raise your hand.

7.     To assess the students the teacher will have them turn in their article, with the markings, along with the topic sentence. The following rubric can help in grading their work. Another way to asses is to ask the following comprehension questions and have the students write their answers and turn them in.






Deleted trivia and repeated info





Locates important





Composed a topic sentence that summarizes what the author said about the article




Comprehension Questions:

What was the authors’ purpose for writing this article?

What is one thing you learned about the setting of the article?

Explian how Harriet Tubman received her information?

Why was Harriet Tubman willing to risk her life for others?

Why did they call her the civil war spy?


Ramsey, Ashley. Summarizing…we can bear it!

Swanson, Katie. Can You Bear To Summarize It???

Wood, Ashley.  Let’s sum it all up!

White, Amy. Fly High and Summarize

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