Summing It Up

Reading to Learn Lesson Design

By: Courtney Leyde

Rationale: To achieve the ultimate goal of reading, comprehension, a good reader has to also have good comprehension strategies. These strategies help students to read not just for enjoyment, but to read to learn. The most important and helpful comprehension strategy is summarization. It allows readers to focus on the main ideas of a passage and not the extraneous details. In this lesson, students will learn how to summarize effectively through explicit instruction and modeling by the teacher. Students will learn to recognize important ideas and to eliminate unnecessary and trivial details. They will then practice this new strategy by reading a connected passage and using their new strategy to determine the main ideas and organize them which allows for easier comprehension.


·         A poster with the steps of summarization:

o    Get rid of unimportant information.

o    Get rid of repeated information.

o    Substitute umbrella words for list words.

o    Select a topic.

·         Short excerpt about Giant Pandas (either or overhead projector/SMARTBoard or on a poster)

·         Copy of the “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened” article (either on overhead projector/SMARTBoard or on a poster)

·         Copies of the “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened” article for the class

·         Copies of the “Giant Panda Cubs Give Hope to an Endangered Species” article for the class (including a teacher’s copy)

·         Paper & pencil for each student

·         One highlighter for each student

·         Class set of Summarization Checklists

When summarizing,
did the student…




Delete unimportant information?


Delete repeated information?


Organize items with a big idea?


Select a topic?


Write an inclusive, simple topic sentence to summarize the passage?




  1. Say: “Today we are going to learn a new comprehension strategy to help us learn from something we’re reading. We are going to learn summarization. Does anyone know what ‘summarize’ means? (Call on student.) That’s right, it means we take out the extra details we don’t need and focus on only the important ideas. If we learn how to summarize, we can focus on the main ideas of a passage or story and more easily comprehend what it is trying to tell or teach us.”
  2. Say: “First, we have to review some words that you might not know that are important for today’s passage. Our passage today talks about animals which are not so common in our world today.

       The first word we need to discuss is ‘endangered’. Simply put, it means that the number of an animal species is really low and they are in danger of dying out. For example, giant pandas are an endangered species. There are very few of them in the world. However, you would NOT say that dogs are endangered because there are a lot of dogs in the world. Which would most likely be ‘endangered’: humans, hybrid spider monkeys, or brown bears? (Call on student to answer.) Complete the sentence: If an animal species is endangered, we should _________. (Call on several students to answer.)

       Next is the word ‘captive’. That just means that someone or something is not roaming around free. They are confined to a specific place. For example, animals in the zoo are captive. A prisoner in jail is captive. Since we are free to go where we want, we are not captive. When could you describe yourself as captive? (example answer: when you’re grounded) Finish this sentence: One type of captive animal is __________.

       Finally, let’s talk about the word ‘cub’. A cub is the name for a very young lion, bear, or fox. For example, the article we’ll read is about a giant panda cub. But you wouldn’t call a young dog or cat a cub. Which is the human version of a cub: baby, teenager, or adult? Finish this sentence: I want to go visit the _________ cub.”

  1. Say: “Today, we’re going to learn how to summarize. Summarizing just means we take out the extra information we don’t need and focus only on the important information. Let’s read our poster together about the five summarization rules.” (Point to each rule as you read them out loud and then have students read them aloud with you the second time.)
  2. Say: “Now I’ll show you how I summarize this paragraph about pandas to determine what it’s trying to tell me.” (Provide the following excerpt where students can follow along: “High in dense bamboo forests in the misty, rainy mountains of southwestern China lives one of the world's rarest mammals: the giant panda, also called the panda. Only about 1,000 of these black-and-white relatives of bears survive in the wild. Pandas eat almost nothing but bamboo shoots and leaves.” –taken from Nat Geo - Kids: Creature Features) “Read along silently as I read out loud. (Read the excerpt out loud.) Now, look back at our summarization rules. #1 says to get rid of any unnecessary information so I’m going to cross out specific details we don’t really need. (Cross out: “High in dense bamboo forests in the misty, rainy mountains of”; “of these black-and-white relatives of bears” and explain that since these are not important to the main point, we can get rid of it.) Now, #2 says to get rid of repeated information; so if I saw anything repeated, I could cross it out. Nothing is repeated in this passage so I can move on. Next, #3  tells us to use umbrella words (more general terms) for any list words. For any mention of the rarest mammals, the black and white relatives of bears, or giant pandas, we can use the general term “pandas”. The last part is about a topic sentence. If there is already a topic sentence in the paragraph, we simply need to highlight it; if there isn’t, we need to write one. So this paragraph is telling us that Pandas are one of the world’s rarest mammals. Only about 1000 live in the wild in southwestern China. They only eat bamboo.
  3. Say: “Now, it’s your turn to try summarizing. Let’s summarize this article on polar bears together. (Display polar bear article on projector/SMARTboard/poster so students can see it and provide each student with a handout of it as well. Read it together.) First, let’s cross out any unimportant or repeated information. What do we need to mark out? (Call on students.) Use your pencils to mark those parts out. Ok now who or what is the article about? (Call on students.) Circle that. Alright, now what is the article trying to tell us about them? Is it written in one sentence or do we need to write our own topic sentence?” (Call on students. Then, either highlight the sentence or write a topic sentence together as a class.) Review what you just did; say: “So this article that we just read is about _____ and it tells us that ___________________.”
  4. Say: “Now, you will put your new summarizing skills to practice as you read this article about giant pandas. We read a little bit about them earlier. Now, we get to read about how new baby giant pandas are giving the species hope! Read the article silently to yourself. As you read, make sure you are following our five summarization rules. Cross out any unnecessary or repeated information that you don’t need. Circle the ‘who’ or ‘what’ that the article is about. And then highlight or write a topic sentence that tells me what the whole article is telling us.”
  5. Assessment. Using the Summarization Checklists, have students swap their articles that they have marked, highlighted, and written on with a partner. Have each partner use the checklists to assess one another. Also, ask some comprehension questions after all students have read and summarized, such as:

       Were these cubs in the wild or in captivity?

       Why did the baby cubs give hope to the species?

       What can we do to help?


Gordon, David George. “Giant Panda Cubs Give Hope to an Endangered Species”.

Hughes, Catherine D. “Animals: Creature Features – Giant Pandas”.

Roach, John. “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened”.