Summing It All Up!

Reading to Learn

Heather Tassin


Rationale:  When students know how to summarize what they are reading they will better comprehend the material.  Comprehension is an important goal in reading instruction.  Students need to be able to identify the main ideas and important details in what they read in order to summarize.  This lesson teaches students how to summarize and gives them an opportunity to practice using specific skills to summarize.


Materials:  Individual and student copies and teacher copy of National Geographic article:  Photo in the news:  Lake vanishes suddenly in Chile, individual student copies and teacher copy of national Geographic article: "Toad Tunnels" Built to help amphibians cross roads, black markers and highlighters for each student and the teacher, paper and pencils.



1.Does anyone know what summarizing means?  Good Job!  It means to find the most important facts and form a main idea from a passage we are reading.  If is important for us to know how to summarize and be good at it because it helps us better understand what we read.  We are going to practice summarizing today by reading some passages silently and then summarizing them.  Does everyone remember how to read silently? Great!  So, we do not say the words out loud as we read, but instead them to ourselves quietly.  I will first show you how to summarize, and then, you will do it on your own.

2.As I read aloud this National Geographic article entitled Photo in the news: Lake vanishes suddenly in Chile, I want all of you to read along silently and listen for things you think are unimportant.  After reading, I will call on students to first name things the thought were not important, and secondly I will ask for things you thought were important.  The class will vote on all the sentences on whether or not you think it is important and should be kept as one of the main ideas.  I will then highlight all the main ideas we kept and write the summary of the article.  Our summary should sound something like this: "Melting ice in southern Chile caused a global lake to swell and then empty suddenly, sending a tsunami rolling through a river.  Scientists say this is a phenomenon that occurs periodically during the summer season due to global warming."  See how this has just the important information?  We took out the parts that were repeated and parts that were not part of the main idea.  So, now are you ready to summarize on your own?

3.I will hand out individual copies of the National Geographic article entitled, Toad Tunnels Built to Help Amphibians Cross Roads to each student.  I will also give each student a highlighter and a black marker.  I want you to read this article silently once and then go back and pick out the unimportant and redundant information.  Mark out those sentences with the black marker.  Then, find the main ideas and highlight those with the highlighter.  Finally, I want you to create your own summary of the article.  After everyone is finished we will go over the summaries in class.  I will walk around while you are working to make sure everyone is doing it correctly.

4.What information did you mark out with the black marker and why?  What information did you highlight and why?  Great Job!  That information is important and is part of our main idea.  As they say what information they marked out and highlighted I will do the same on the board.  I will have volunteer students read their original summaries to the class.  I will listen to see if they summarized correctly.  I will talk about how summarizing helped us understand the articles better. 


Assessment:  I will assess their summaries that they turn in to see if they correctly marked out the unimportant information and highlighted the important information.  I will read the summaries to make sure they contain the main ideas of the articles.



Harris, Katherine, Sum It Up!


Roach, John. Toad Tunnels. Built to Help Amphibians Cross Roads.  2005. National Geographic

            News Online:



Associated Press in Santiago, Chile. Photo in the news: Lake vanishes suddenly in Chile.  2008.

            National Geographic News Online:


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