Summarizing Before Summer

Reading to Learn

By: Christine Acker


Rationale:  The main goal of this lesson is to have the student be able to explain what the passage is about by reducing the text with hundreds or thousands of words and condensing that into a compact general idea.  This goal is important because summarization helps students understand information in the text better, permits inferences by filling in the knowledge gaps, and facilitates reconstruction of the text for later recall.  Ultimately, students will benefit from this lesson because they will be better able to connect the text with their prior knowledge and add to their schema.  We will do modeling activities and guided practice to reach this goal of successfully summarizing.





  1. Say, “Today we will be learning how to summarize passages by first finding the main topic of the passage.  We will do this by testing our guess throughout the passage.  A topic is a general statement that includes all trivia.”
  2. Before the teacher and student jump right into summarizing, they will first review background knowledge.  The teacher will first explain the vocabulary word in simple terms.  Say, “The first word we will be looking at today is immigrants.  Immigrants are people who move from one country to another.”  Then the teacher will model the example by using it in a sentence.  Say, “My grandfather was an immigrant back in 1933 when he came from Italy to America.”  Then teacher will provide sample questions about the word.  Say, “Which one of these is more like an apprentice:  An Italian man who doesn’t speak much English and is new to the country or an American soldier who was born in Virginia?”  Once discussion has been made about the questions, provide an open ended sentence for the student where they will have to use scaffolding.  Say, “I thought he might be an immigrant because…” Other words that will be reviewed will be government, culture, and diverse.
  3. Once background knowledge has been used by introducing new vocabulary, the teacher will then model the new concept.  Say, “How would I summarize a long and difficult text that explains what immigration is?”  Then model how you would go about doing this task. 
  4. Say, “I‘ll cross out unimportant details, then underline important ideas & put it into 1 sentence. What's important? What is immigration? Who wrote this passage? Why did immigration take place?”  Show students how you would go about doing this and talk out loud while you are crossing out words so the student hears your thought process behind it.
  5. Once they have modeled an example, teacher and students will try to summarize a paragraph together.  Say, “Today we will practice our summarizing skills with the book Bobby the Brave.  This book is about a young boy who is making a big move from one country to another and comes across from problems along the way.  While reading, stop and write a summarizing sentence after each page.”  Then move on specifically to one passage in the story.  Say, “Today, we will read pages 5-9. What kind of stories do you think Breugel told with his art? While reading, stop and write a summarizing sentence after each page.”  Teacher and student will ask what’s the passage is about, what the point of the passage, and then ultimately reach a summary statement. 
  6. Next, guided practice will take place where student will be deleting trivia, subordinating from specific information to general, and generating a topic sentence.  Teacher will ask, "What parts of this passage don't seem as important as others? Do some parts not talk about immigration at all?"  Then teacher will model and say, "Hmmm, I don't think we need this part because it doesn't have much to do with the main idea, so I will cut that out of the summary."  Then teacher will notice many specific details and model how to minimize that to general information.  The student will then demonstrate this same strategy.  Then student and teacher will formulate a topic sentence once completing all these steps and deleting the unnecessary information. 
  7. Once student and teacher have done this example together, the student will then be led to the assessment part of the lesson.  The teacher will assign a new paragraph for students to demonstrate use of their strategy or evaluate student class work using a checklist.  Teacher will ask students comprehension questions of how and why rather than trivia questions.



The Reading Genie.

A New Home.

Murray, Geralyn.  Summarizing PowerPoint.