Smile, We’re Summarizing!

Reading to Learn

Heather Sherrell


Rationale: As students are reading, one of the main goals is comprehension because this shows that they have understood the material that they are reading. One of the key strategies to test for reading comprehension is summarizing. By summarizing the material, the students are choosing the main ideas, and they are highlighting the important facts. This helps them to understand their reading in a more condensed version, while still comprehending the main idea of the material. This lesson will help students gain the skills to summarize an article, in order to understand the deeper meaning contained in it. Students will use the following summarization rules: cross out unimportant details or repeated ideas, reduce parts of the text into fewer words, and choose a topic sentence.


Paper for students, pencils for students, highlighters for students, projector, white board, copies of the article, “The Secret Language of Dolphins” (one per student, one for teacher) Author unknown. Published by National Geographic Kids., copies of the article “Giant Jellyfish Invasion” Musgrave, Ruth A. Published by National Geographic Kids. (one per student, one for teacher), list of summarization rules (above), list of vocabulary words: captive, mammals, vocalize, communicate, nuance, pod, assessment checklist (at end of lesson)



1) “Today, we are going to practice a new strategy as we are reading. We are going to focus on summarizing because this will help us to comprehend the passage better as well as become excellent readers! Does anyone know what a summary is?” (Wait for a response) “Yes, correct! It is a shorter version of a long story or article, and it contains only the main facts and ideas of the story or article. The teacher will then give sample diagram of a picture of an umbrella with Main Idea written at the top and Details written in each section of the umbrella to show the students a visual representation of what they are going to do. “In order to summarize, we will first need to learn our summarization rules. They are the following: cross out useless sentences or repeated ideas, highlight the important facts and ideas and condense these into just a few sentences, choose the main idea of the article, so that we can create our topic sentence.”


2) “Today, we will practice by reading an article and summarizing it.” The teacher will post the summarization rules on a transparency and place them on the projector, or use a smart board if available, for the students to see. “Make sure you refer to our summarization rules as you are doing this, and make sure you put the summary in your own words. The best way to do this is to read slowly, reread important parts, and to make notes. Before we get started, we will review our vocabulary words.”

Vocabulary list: captive, mammals, vocalize, communicate, nuance, pod

3) To review the vocabulary, the teacher will do the following things for each word: explain what it means in simple vocabulary, model how to use it, provide sample questions for using the word, and scaffold the students in making a sentence with the word.

Example: “Our first word is captive. A captive is a person who has been taken prisoner or an animal that has been confined. Can anyone tell me where we might find a captive animal? A zoo? An aquarium? That’s a good idea, because dolphins, sharks, monkeys, lions, and tigers are all examples of animals we might see in captivity. What do they all have in common? Right, they all have a special home, and a caretaker, such as a zookeeper, to keep them safe. Let’s make a sentence with this word. I will start off and I want you to finish it. We would see an animal held captive in a … (let students answer) zoo, aquarium, Sea World, etc.

4) “Before we get to the article with these words in it, I will give you another article and show you what to do when you summarize. (Pass out “Giant Jellyfish Invasion”, by National Geographic Kids. (Book talk) This article talks about the Nomura Jellyfish, a species of jellyfish that can weigh up to 450 pounds. These jellyfish are invading the waters of Japan, causing a lot of trouble for the fisherman! They are destroying the fishermen’s nets, and poisoning many of the fish the fishermen need to catch and see to make a living! Why do you think this is happening? Let’s all take a moment to read the article. (Article is short so that it will not be overwhelming.) Great! Now, the first thing I want to do is pick out any information in the article that is not important. So I don’t think that we really need to know what specifically the jellyfish like to eat. Let’s all take our pencil and cross that sentence out. Next, we need to pick out places that we can shorten the sentences. I think that instead of saying the supersize sea creatures--normally found off the coasts of China and North and South Korea--occasionally drift east into the Sea of Japan to feed on tiny organisms called plankton, we could just say they are eating all the plankton! This helps us because we are saying the same thing in a shorter way. Next, we need to create our topic sentence. We know that the article is about giant jellyfish that are causing trouble for Japanese fishermen. Maybe our topic sentence could be Jellyfish, who are normally a friendly species, are causing serious trouble for local Japanese fisherman because of their gigantic size. Now we can use our topic sentence and the information that we have left to write our summary. On your own paper, write the topic sentence and the rest of the information that we have left in your own words. Great job! (Walk around to scaffold the writing.) Another idea would be to use about/point to create the topic sentence. Ask the students, “What is it about?” and “What is the main point?”

5) Simple practice with a whole text: Give the students a new article to read and have them summarize this on their own. “Today we will practice our summarizing skills with the article, “The Secret Language of Dolphins”, by National Geographic Kids. (Book talk) This article talks the studies starting to learn more about how dolphins really communicate with each other. They are obviously using a secret language, so can scientists crack the code and figure out what the extremely intelligent dolphins are saying? Their language seems very different from ours, doesn’t it? Don’t forget our vocabulary words for this article that we already talked about. (Post vocabulary list to remind students.) Remember, you should first read the article, then cross out any useless information, reduce parts of it to fewer words, compose a topic sentence, and write your summary on your own paper. I will come around to help and make sure everyone is doing well, please raise your hand if you need me.”

Assessment: Take up student’s summarizations from the article above and evaluate using this table:


When summarizing, did the student…



Delete unimportant info?



Delete repeated info?



Reduce text to few words?



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





Also, ask the following comprehension questions:

What was significant about the mama and baby dolphin in Hawaii? (right there)

What point was the author making about the topic? (putting together)

Why do you think it is important scientists’ research how dolphins communicate? (writer and me)

What is the technology beings used to research dolphin communication, and why are they using it? (putting together)

What kinds of questions are these? Right there, putting it together, writer and me, or on my own? Put the name next to each question.


National Geographic Kids. Musgrave, Ruth A. “Giant Jellyfish Invasion”. March 2009. Web. 3November 2012.

National Geographic Kids. Author Unknown. “The Secret Language of Dolphins”. September 2011.Web. 3 November 2012.

Bullard, Taylor. “Let’s Be Sensational Summarizers!” Auburn University. Spring 2012.

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