Stop, It’s Summarizing Time!


By: Katie Wilcox


            When trying to understand material in a story, it is important for students to be able to learn the tools necessary in order to take what they need from articles or books. The main goal when students are reading is summarization because without it, they will not be able to completely understand what they are reading and “comprehend.” Comprehending is a key strategy because by summarizing the main ideas, it will be easier for the students to comprehend what everything is about and it will help them choose main ideas and highlight important facts. By summarizing all the main ideas, this helps the students learn about their topic in a more condensed but very comprehensive version. This lesson will highlight all of the necessary attributes that the students need in order to sort through all the unnecessary information and understand a deeper meaning about their topic. There are a few summarization rules that students will use when reading such as: crossing out unimportant details or repeated ideas, reducing parts of the texts into fewer words, and choosing a topic sentence.

-paper and pencil for students
-copies of the article “The Secret Language of Dolphins” author unknown, National Geographic Kids (one copy per student, one copy for teacher)
-copies of the article “Giant Jellyfish Invasion” Musgrave, Ruth. Published by National Geographic Kids (one copy per student, one copy for teacher)
-List of summarization rules
-list of vocabulary words: captive, mammals, vocalize, communicate, nuance, pod, assessment checklist (at end of lesson)


1.      “Today we are going to learn about a new strategy called summarization. This is an important strategy to learn because it will be very helpful in comprehending the story. Doing this will make us much better readers! Does anyone know what it means to summarize?” (Wait until they respond.) That’s right! Summarizing is making longer stories shorter and picking out the important parts of the story and getting rid of the parts that are not important.” I will then give them a sample example of an apple tree with MAIN IDEA written at the top and different branches towards the bottom that are labeled the DETAILS. This will be a great example for the students because it will help the students narrow down the most important parts that all make up what the main idea is. It also visually shows the students how all of the details and the main idea are connected. I will say, “In order to summarize, we first need to understand the many rules that go into making summarization important. The rules are: cross out unimportant details or repeated ideas, reduce parts of the texts into fewer words, and choose a topic sentence.”

2.      “Now that we know the different rules that go into summarization, we are going to read an article and try to pick out the main ideas.” I will then post the summarization rules on the board so the students will be able to glance up whenever they forget. I will say, “Don’t forget to relate to the board when you forget or trying to summarize. Remember, whenever you summarize, be sure to put them in your own words so you are not stealing someone else’s thoughts. While we are reading, let’s remember the vocabulary words: captive, mammals, vocalize, communicate, nuance, pod.”

3.      In order to understand the vocabulary words, I will go through each word and have the class define them in a group, model how to use it in a sentence, provide sample questions for using the word, and scaffolding the students into summarizing them.


Example: “Our first word is captive. A captive is a person that has been a prisoner or a type of animal that is put into a cage or locked in space. Does anyone know where there could be a captive animal or where they would see one? A zoo? Maybe even an aquarium? That could be captive because what exactly are they confined in? Yes that’s right an aquarium! When animals are in a zoo, do they take care of themselves or does someone else take care of them? Yes that’s right someone takes care of them! Say a lion is in the zoo, what is the name of the person who takes care of him? That’s right a caretaker! Let’s create a sentence so that we will be able to recognize it in other text: I would find animals held captive in a…


4.      I will then pass out the second article “Giant Jellyfish Invasion” and give the students a brief talk on what the story is about. I will say, “This article is about Norman jellyfish, a species of jellyfish that can weigh up to 450 pounds. These jellyfish are invading the waters of Japan which caused a lot of trouble with fishermen! What types of problems are they causing with the fishermen? (Pause.) Let’s all think about how they could be causing trouble with the fishermen. Okay, now pick out any information in this article that we do not need to know. What is one thing you found that wasn’t important? Remember, some things that we could consider unimportant could be lengthy descriptions, examples, repetitions, comparisons, and definitions of words you already know. I found that the idea of what the jellyfish eat is not important. Let’s cross that sentence out with our pencil. Next, let’s pick out a sentence that we could shorten. I think one sentence I noticed should be shortened from 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 say they are eating the plankton! This is summarizing because it gets right to the point on what it was trying to say. Next thing we need is a topic sentence. The things we know is that the story is about a jellyfish that is terrorizing Japanese fishermen. Who can think of a good example of a topic sentence? (Pause) How about: While jellyfish are normal passive and friendly creatures, they have been having trouble with local Japanese fishermen because they are so big. Ask the students, “What is it about?” and “What is the main point?”

5.      Give the students a new article and the opportunity to summarize on their own. “I am going to give you a copy of ‘The Secret Language of Dolphins’ by National Geographic Kids.” I will then give small booktalk on what it’s about in order to intrigue the students. I will say, “This article is about communication between dolphins and the studies that are trying to comprehend how they communicate. Can scientists try to figure out their language?” The students and I will then discuss it for a little bit. Then I will remind them about the vocabulary words that we went over before and talked about, and if they forgot I will write them on the board. I will then also remind the students, “Don’t forget to read the whole article first, reduce some of the sentences to smaller, and cross out the unnecessary information.” Then, while they are working, I will walk around to be sure they are doing their work.

6.      Assessment: “Collect student’s summarization from the second article and evaluate using the following table.”


Did the student…



Cross out unimportant information and facts?



Delete repeated information?



Reduce sentences to a few words?



Write a topic sentence in order to summarize a passage?





Sherrell, Heather. “Smile, You’re Summarizing” Auburn University, Spring 2012

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.

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