Sum It Up!

Reading to Learn

Katherine Harris


Rationale: Comprehension is an important goal in reading instruction, and summarization is a skill that helps students learn to read for comprehension.  For a student to be able to summarize skillfully, he needs to able to delete trivial and redundant information and find main ideas and important supporting details in passages.  This lesson teaches students how to summarize and gives them practice using specific summarization skills such as deleting trivial information and finding main ideas in passages.



Individual 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? That is right! It means to find the most important facts and form a main idea from a passage we are reading. It is important for us to know how to summarize and be good summarizers because it helps us better understand what we read. We are going to practice summarizing today and try to be the best summarizers we can be! We are going to read some passages silently and then summarize them. Do you remember what it means to read silently? That is right! It means we do not say the words out loud as we read but, instead, say them to ourselves quietly. First, I am going to 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 and might need to be taken out. After reading, I will call on students to first name things they thought were unimportant and secondly, things they thought were important. The class will make a vote on each sentence a student gives to say whether they think that was important information and should be kept as one of the main ideas or that it is unimportant and should be removed. I will mark out the unimportant information with a black marker and highlight the important information that the class agrees to keep. I will find superordinate terms and mark out all the extra examples that are unimportant. Then, I will compile our main ideas, and write our summary on the board. Our summary should be 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. (I put two sentences together and took out the information that was not very important.) 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? See how we took out 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 hand out a black marker and highlighter to each student. I want you to read this article silently once and then, go back and pick out trivial and redundant information. Mark out that information that you feel is not important with your black marker. Then, find the main ideas that you feel are important and highlight them. Also, make sure you understand and find the superordinate terms in the article. Who knows what superordinate terms are? Here is an example: Find the superordinate term for football, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics. That is right! It is sports. Now, try to do that with this article. After that, I want you to create a summary that is only about 3-4 sentences long of only the highlighted, important information. When you are finished, we will go over our summaries as a class and create one, class summary for this article. I will walk around the room to see if students are doing this correctly or are needing help.

4. What information did you mark out with the black marker and why? What information did you highlight and why? You are right! That is important information that is part of our main idea. As they tell me the information they marked out and highlighted, I will do the same on the board if the class votes that they agree to do so. Once finished, I will have the final product on the board for all of the students to see. I will have volunteer students read their original summaries to the class. The class will listen to see if they summarized correctly. I will explain that all of the summaries do not have to be identical but do need to all have the same main ideas. 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 took out unimportant or redundant information and see if they created summaries that had the main ideas of the article.



Woods, Christina, Short, Sweet, and to the Point.


Walton, Rebecca, Let䴜s Be Star Summarizers!


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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