Catching the Summarization "Bug"


Reading to Learn

Aubrey Etheredge



Rationale: In order to learn new information, students must first possess the ability to read. But, the ability to read alone is not enough- after reading has been mastered, students must begin reading to learn. When reading to learn, it is important that students know how to summarize. Summarizing allows children to pull out the main ideas of a reading, and therefore streamline the learning process by eliminating unnecessary information. Like most concepts, summarization must be explicitly taught in order for students to apply the skill to many academic areas.



-Pencil (1 per student)

-Yellow highlighter, Orange highlighter (each student needs 1 of each)

-Notebook paper

-Individual handouts of "Why are Mosquitoes so Annoying?"

-Transparency of "Why are Mosquitoes so Annoying?"

-Individual handouts of "Malaria is still a Problem in Africa"

-Summarization Bookmarks (1 per student) (1. Write the topic sentence/main idea, 2. Find important details that support the main idea, 3. Cross out unimportant information, 4. Remove any idea that is already named, 5. Write a 3-5 sentence summary)

-Assessment rubric (1 per student)



1. Introduce the lesson.

-Say: "Today we are going to learn an important skill that pro readers use- summarizing. Raise your hand if you know what it means to summarize…Yes, to summarize means to name the main idea of the passage. Summarizing is important because it helps us to identify the most important parts of what we're reading. In order to find that important information, we need to get rid of the information that is unimportant and distracts from the point the passage is trying to make. During today's lesson, we will learn how to identify the main idea, find the most important details, and take away any unimportant information."


2. Distribute Summarization Bookmarks

-Say: "On your bookmark, you will find all the steps you need to take in order to summarize a passage. Keep this bookmark and reference it in the future when you need to summarize! Let's look at the summarization steps on our bookmarks. First, we need to find the topic. Raise your hand if you know what it means to find the "topic" in a paragraph…That's right, the topic is the main idea of the paragraph- it's a short statement of what the paragraph is all about. Next, we need to make sure that all the important information is included in our summary. So, we know what needs to be in a summary- let's look at what needs to be left out. You can get rid of any information that is listed more than once in a passage, as well as any unimportant information. Our last step is to write a summary- good news- summaries are meant to be short! You don't have to do a lot of writing when you summarize, just enough to get make sure you include the basics that the reader of the paragraph needs to know."


3. Give further explanation of the 3 important steps of summarization.

-Say: "There are three very important steps that we need to take when summarizing. You can find them on your bookmark! First, pick out all the important details of the passage you are reading. Then, cross out all the details that have already been listed earlier in the passage, and any details that are unimportant in understanding the main idea. Lastly, organize the important information that you pulled out, and find the main idea of the passage as a whole."


4. Distribute handouts of "Why are Mosquitoes so Annoying?"

-Say: "This article is about a bug that I'm sure we have all been bitten by at some point- mosquitoes! We will read this article together, but before we begin, let's look at a few vocabulary words. The first word I want to take a look at is "sensor." Does anyone know what a sensor is? I see that the root word of "sensor" is "sense." Also, I see in the second paragraph that mosquitoes have many "people sensors." Based on what I know and see, I can infer that the word "sensor" means a device that is used to sense, or be aware, of something. The next word we need to go over is "proboscis." Read the third sentence in the fourth paragraph. That sentence tells us that the proboscis is the part of the mosquito that the bug sticks into your skin, like a needle. Point to the part of the mosquito that you think is the proboscis in that picture." Now that we are prepared to read all the words in this passage, let's begin reading together."


5. Read the article aloud


6. Model summarization

-Say: "Let me show you how I would summarize this text. I'm going to use my bookmark if I need help. My first step is to determine which details are most important. I'm going to underline those. Then, I will need to determine which details are unimportant. I'm going to cross those out. To decide if a detail is important or unimportant, I need to figure out what subject seems to be mentioned more than once- that's my topic. What do you think the topic of this passage is? I also need to figure out what the author wants me to know about the topic. To do this, I look at action words first- are some of the action words alike? Can I categorize these words somehow? Let's look at the second paragraph more closely."


"Mosquitoes are like little robots. These robots are great at finding warm-blooded people. A mosquito's head is loaded with a system of "people sensors." It starts with chemical sensors. With their antenna, mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide and lactic acid up to 100 feet away. They can also detect chemicals in sweat. Since people and animals give off lots of carbon dioxide and these other chemicals, it makes it easy for mosquitoes to find us."


-Say: "First, I'm going to use my yellow highlighter to mark the things that are alike. I know from my title that this article is about mosquitoes. I see the word "sensors" a lot- I know that this paragraph is probably about how and what mosquitoes sense things in their surroundings. Now, I need to know what the author is trying to tell me about mosquito sensors. To do this, I look for verbs and action words. I'll mark those with my orange highlighter. After doing that, I see that mosquitoes are very good at finding, detecting, and sensing when humans are around- that's how they get to bite us! Now that I've figured out what the author is telling me, I'll go back and cross out unimportant details. Remember, unimportant items are things like descriptions, examples, information that is repeated in the reading, and anything extra that doesn't really pertain to what the author wants me to know. I can cross out the first sentence, and the first part of the second sentence, because it's an example. I can also cross out the part about the antenna, because it has already told me that they use the sensors on their heads. I can also cross out most of the last sentence, because I can infer that information on my own. See, summarizing is easy! Now you try the next three paragraphs on your own."


(Give students time to highlight and cross out)


-Say: "Now that we have determined which details are important, and gotten rid of the unimportant details, we need to write a topic sentence. Let's see…we know that most of the article talks about how mosquitoes find things to bite…so our topic sentence should be about that! A possible topic sentence could be, "Mosquitoes use different parts of their body to find humans or animals to bite."


(Continue writing the rest of the summary with students, writing the important information that has been underlined on the transparency.)


-Say: "Let's look back at our bookmark to double check that we did everything correctly. We wrote the topic sentence…we used only important details…we wrote 3-5 sentences…perfect! Summarizing is simple, and it helps us learn a lot about what we're reading in a short amount of time!"


7. Distribute handouts of "Malaria is Still a Problem in Africa"

-Say: "Now that we have summarized together, I want you to practice on your own. This article is about malaria. Does anyone know what malaria is? You're going to have to read and find out more about it! Remember to underline important information and cross out unimportant information as you read. Reference your bookmark if you need help!"



I will walk around while the students are writing summaries in order to make sure that they have gained an understanding of the concept. Students will be formally assessed by the summary that they write independently.


Did the student…



Cross out unimportant/repeated information?



Underline important information?



Organize important items?



Select a topic?



Write a brief and informative summary of the passage?





-Discovery Kids, "Why are Mosquitoes so Annoying?":

-National Geographic Kids, "Malaria is Still a Problem in Africa":

-Summarization Invasion by Katherine Crum:

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