"Summarizing…we can bear it!"




Reading to Learn

Ashley Ramsey


Rationale:  Being able to summarize what is read 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 trivial details, pick out the key information, and create a topic sentence.



Overhead copy of Life in a Deep Freeze

One copy for each student of Life in a Deep Freeze

Yellow and Black overhead marker

Yellow and Black marker for each student

One copy of A Bear of a Job for each student

Steps to Summarizing written on chart paper

Read the article

Cross out trivia

Highlight important information

Write topic sentence


1.Teacher says to class: Who can tell me what comprehension is?  Comprehension is when we remember what we read after we are done reading.  Today, we are going to practice a way to increase our comprehension by learning how to summarize.  We are going to learn how to get rid of information we don't need, pick out what's important, and then write a topic sentence about what we just read.

2.Teacher says to class: Now I am going to show you how to summarize and you are going to practice along with me.

*Be sure the steps of summarizing are on the board as a reference.  Pass out the article Life in a Deep Freeze to all students. Put the transparency copy on the overhead.  Pass out a black marker for crossing out trivia and a yellow marker for highlighting important information to each student. 

Teacher says to class: I am going to read the article aloud to you.  (Teacher reads the article aloud to students.) Now that I am finished reading, we are going to look back through the article and cross out the trivia (useless information) with a black marker.  Will you help me figure out what is useless?  (Call on students to read facts/sentences that are useless).  Now that we have discussed what is not important, you mark out on your copy what we have just identified as trivia.   

Now that we have crossed out the sentences that have useless information, let's highlight the important facts.  Will you help me figure out what is important? (Call on students to point out important facts/sentences).  Now highlight these facts on your copy.

Our last task in the summarizing process is to find the main idea or topic sentence in the article.  After we find the article's topic sentence, we are going to use what it says to write our own topic sentence.  You write your own topic sentences based on the important things we highlighted yellow.  (Teacher circulates around the room and looks at each of the students topic sentences.  If students are having difficulty, the instructor gives the students hints).

3.Teacher says to class: Let's review how to summarize.  1. The first thing we do is read the article.  This time you are going to read your article silently (quietly to ourselves).  If you need to, you can mouth the words just make sure you are not making any sound.  2. The next thing we do is cross out all of the trivia (useless information) with our black marker.  3. After we cross out all of the useless information, we highlight all the important information with our yellow marker.  4. Then we read the important facts and create a topic sentence that summarizes the article. 

4.Teacher says to class: To practice our new summarizing skills, I am handing out everyone an article to read silently and then summarize.  The name of the article is A Bear of a Job.  This is an article about an endangered species, the panda bear!  Can the National Zoo's new pandas help their endangered Chinese cousins to survive? You will have to read to find out.  After you read the article silently; first cross out the useless information, highlight the important information, and then write a topic sentence to summarize the article.  Raise you hand if you need help and I will come around and help you.

5.To assess the students have them turn in their copy of the article with their markings.  Also have students turn in their topic sentence.  Asses the students' work by using the following checklist:

Assessment checklist:

                    YES                NO

            - Deletes trivia and redundancies

            - Locates important items and events

            - Compose a statement that covers everything the

                writer says about the topic


Comprehension questions:

1.What was the authors' purpose for writing this article?

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

3.Can you describe to me three of the animals discussed in the article?


Panda bear picture- www.desktoprating.com

Wood, Ashley.  Inventions: Let's sum it all up! http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/invent/woodrl.html

White, Amy. Odysseys: Fly High and Summarize


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 Voyages index.