Sum it Up!

Reading to Learn

Teaching Summarization to Help Students Comprehend Reading Passages

Lara Lee Hood

Rationale:  Comprehension is one of the most important things to teach to children while they are learning how to read.  A good way to help children comprehend text is to summarize.  To be able to read and recall information from text, children need instruction in summarization.  By deleting trivial information, deleting redundant information, substituting sup ordinate terms for a list of items, and creating a topic sentence, students will be able to remember factual information better.

Sentence strips with six different steps for summarizing written on them
Deleted unimportant information:                                      yes or no
Selected repeated information:                                          yes or no
Substituted easy terms for lists of items:                          yes or no
 Added a series of events with an easy action term:            yes or no
Selected a topic:                                                              yes or no
Invented a topic sentence if there was none:                      yes or no

Overhead copy of Life in a Deep Freeze

1 copy for each student of Life in a Deep Freeze

1 copy for each student of A Bear of a Job

Dry Erase Boards and Markers

Start by reviewing how to read silently and introduce the first story. "Have you ever tried to do something new, like building something, and made mistakes when you were learning?  Today we are going to read a story about learning to do something new.   First, before we start reading, I would like to review how to read silently.  Watch me as I read silently." I will read the first page of the story to myself.  "Now I am going to pass out Life in a Deep Freeze and I would like for each of you to read the title and the story to yourself.  I should not hear anyone making a sound.  I want to see your eyes following along as you read."
"You all did a great job of reading silently!  Now we are going to learn how to summarize the story.  Who can tell me what a summary is?  Well, a summary can be written by picking out the main points in a story or passage.  There are six different steps to keep in mind when you are summarizing."  Have each of these six steps written on sentence strips and post them on the board as they are described and discussed.

Delete unimportant information
Delete repeated information
Substitute easy terms for lists of items
Add a series of events with an easy action term
Select a topic
Invent a topic sentence if there is none

Explain to the children how to use mapping as a strategy. "A great way to summarize a piece of literature is to use a skill called mapping.  When we map a story or passage we put the main idea or topic in a middle circle and the supporting details around the outside like antennae."  On the board, model making a map for summarizing. Have the students contribute ideas for beginning to fill in the story map by asking questions.   "The middle circle will be what?  The topic, very good.  What is the topic of our article? So this will be our center circle.  Now we will add ideas to the antennae coming out from our circle, which will describe some important ideas.  What is something described in the story?  In order to keep adding on to the map we will need to continue to come up with some more important information from the story. Can you tell me another important idea that we can put on the antenna? "At this point the teacher will guide the students to add only important ideas. When the class is satisfied that they have just the important facts the teacher will write all of the important details in complete sentences, forming a summative paragraph about the story.    

The next step will be to divide the class into small groups, give them small dry erase boards and have them repeat the same process that was modeled in the above steps.  Give the children A Bear of a Job to read.  Instruct students to make a summarization map of the passage on their dry erase boards and write a summarization paragraph, using their map. Allow the group's time to read silently and then construct the story maps.


Circulate while the students are working, Check each map and summary making sure that the students are using all six steps of summarization.  Use a checklist including the items:

Deleted unimportant information:                                      yes or no
Deleted repeated information:                                           yes or no
Substituted easy terms for lists of items:                          yes or no
Added a series of events with an easy action term:             yes or no
Selected a topic:                                                              yes or no
Invented a topic sentence if there was none:                      yes or no



Olk, Katie.  Carving Out A Story.

Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text by Michael Pressley

Markle, Sandra.  Life in a Deep Freeze.  National Geographic for Kids (December 2002).

Winkler, Peter.  A Bear of a Job.  National Geographic for Kids (November-December 2001)


Return to Sightings Index