Summarization Soldiers

Reading to Learn

Lora Haghighi



Once students have mastered the steps in beginning reading, they must then begin to read for comprehension. One key strategy in reading for comprehension is the ability to summarize a piece of literature. This is not a skill that is easily picked up. Deliberate instruction is necessary. Through a teacher modeling specific strategies, students can expand on their comprehension skills by learning how to summarize themselves.


         For about a decade, tension had been mounting between Great Britain and the American Colonies. The British government had passed a series of laws in an attempt to increase control over the colonies. But Americans had become used to having control over their local government. They objected to the new laws and protested being taxed without their consent. In 1775, Britain's Parliament declared Massachusetts, the center of most of the protests, to be in rebellion. British troops were placed in Boston to take swift action against the rebels. Shortly afterwards, war broke out.

  The Colonies were largely unprepared for war. They lacked a central government and had neither an organized army or navy. Delegates from the colonies formed the first Continental Congress, which took on the duties of a national government. Congress directed the war effort and voted to organize an army and a navy. George Washington, a wealthy Virginia landowner and former military officer, was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army. On July 4, 1776, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, in which the colonies declared their freedom from British rule.” (Lamb, Annette. The Revolutionary War.


1.  Begin by asking the students: “Have you ever had a friend ask you about a particular book you are reading? Have you told them the ‘short version’ of the story? Well, we call that a summary. A summary is something we can use to get across the general idea behind a story, without telling every little thing that happens in that story. Today, we are going to learn how to summarize stories.”

2. Remember how we have gone over and over re-reading in class? Re-reading is an excellent tool for summarizing. After you have read a passage, it is often a good idea to go back and re-read areas that you think are especially important for your summary. It is often helpful to look back over important details to think of an easier and sometimes shorter way of re-writing that thought.

3. Display the “Summarization Rules Poster”

Summarization Strategies:

  1. Pick out important ideas
  2.  Eliminate less important details
  3.  Organize the important ideas into one main idea

     “Read these rules with me as I read them aloud.” (Read rules.) I want you to think of these three strategies as your goal for summarizing. Once you are finished summarizing a passage, look at it and see if it meets all of these three goals. Now I am going to model these Summarization Strategies for you.”

  1. “Now I am going to put two paragraphs on the overhead. I want you to read this to yourself as I read it aloud.” Read paragraphs. “Now let’s use the new summarization strategies we just learned to summarize this piece. What do you think are the most important facts in these two paragraphs? If I were looking at these, I would write down that tension was mounting between Great Britain and it’s colonies. I would leave out most of the other things in that paragraph though, because they are unnecessary. I would probably mention that British troops were sent to the colonies to keep down rebellion. Then probably mention something about the Continental Congress meeting. Then mention that on July 4, 1776, our Declaration of Independence was signed. I think most dates are insignificant when writing summaries, but this date is important, as well as easy to remember, because we still celebrate that date as Independence Day.” Now I am going to let you try a little summarizing on your own.
  2. “As you know, we are going to begin reading a biography about George Washington since we are studying the American Revolution in history. That is also why I selected this article.  Today in class, we are going to read the first chapter together. Then, I am going to pass out Summarization Worksheets to each of you and you are going to briefly summarize the chapter. We are going to go through and write summaries for each chapter as we read them in class or you read them on your own. At the end we will go back through and make an overall summary of the whole novel from our chapter summaries.” Pass out Chapter Summary Worksheets.   

Chapter Summaries for: ____________________





  1. Read the first chapter of George Washington. “Can someone name one important piece of information that SHOULD go into our summary of chapter one? (Have students respond.) Good ideas guys. You are all on the right track. Is it important to know what type of plane is mentioned in the first chapter? (No.) What about what young George’s pet’s name was? (No.) Good. Now, I want you each to take the rest of the time to fill in your chapter summary sheet for this chapter. Remember to look at our Summarization Rules for helpful reminders. We are only looking for the most important facts, so we can retell what we have read quickly, but accurately. Let me know if you have any questions. I will be taking these up in a little while.


Have students turn in their Summarization worksheets after the first chapter and then every few chapters after that to make sure they are on the right track. After the first few chapters, it might be a better idea to group several chapters together for summarization to get students in the practice of working with a longer piece before doing the overall summary at the end of the novel.


Moncrief, Jane (2006). Let’s Summarize. Auburn University

Alden, John R. George Washington: A Biography. 1984. LSU Press. Montana.

Lamb, Annette. The Revolutionary War.

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