Super Summarizing Skills

Reading to Learn


Kelsey Fourroux

Rationale: After children have mastered the alphabetic code and are good readers, they need to learn how to read to learn. Being able to summarize a large amount of text makes comprehension easier for the students. They will also learn how to summarize by distinguishing which facts are important (main idea) and which facts are just extra (details). This lesson will teach students to summarize through modeling, guided practice, and individual work.

Materials: Article by Dolasia (cited at bottom) for you and individual copies for students, paper, pencil, whiteboard/SMARTboard, Assessment rubric (shown at bottom)


1.      Introduction: “Summarizing is when you make a lot of text into something small and memorable. For example, if someone asks you what a book you are reading is about, you tell him or her a summary, or the main idea of the story. Summarizing is even more valuable when you are explaining a certain informing type of text. Summarizing is important because if there is too much information for you to remember, then you can just give the main idea of the text in a summary to help you remember it.”

2.      Background Knowledge: “There are some words in our text that you might be unfamiliar with. The words are abandoned, solace, traumatized, vigilant, and forage. Let’s take a closer look at each of these words so we can understand the text. Abandoned means left behind. Someone who has been abandoned is very lonely. It does not feel good to be abandoned. Which one is more likely to feel abandoned: an orphan or a friend? Solace means comfort. In this story, the monkey takes solace or comfort with the stuffed animal. I feel solace when … (get students to complete the sentence). Traumatized means to cause somebody emotional harm. Someone is traumatized when they have gone through something very scary. Who would feel more traumatized? Someone who lost a friend or someone who won a hundred dollars. Vigilant means watchful. In the text, it talks about a vigilant or watchful eye focusing on something. I have a vigilant eye when I … (get students to complete the sentence). Forage means to hunt for food in this text. Animals forage by hunting for food. Who is more likely to forage: A monkey or a student?

3.      Explain: “Now that we understand the vocabulary let’s see how we can summarize the passage. We will read the first paragraph and then stop and talk about what pieces of information were most important to get the main idea. When we summarize we are trying to figure out the main idea by getting rid of the supporting detail in the passage. We want the summary to be as short as possible so we can easily remember what the text is about.”

4.      Model: “I am going to read this passage to you and remember we only want to focus on the most important parts so we can summarize the text. This passage is about a spider monkey who was left by his mom. We will have to read to find out how the monkey deals with this.”

Read: As seems too often be the case with animals, little Estela's mother abandoned the heartbreakingly cute spider monkey, the minute she was born, at the Melbourne Zoo on January 17th. Now, the traumatized two-month old, is seeking love from the most unlikely sources - cuddly stuffed animals.

“That paragraph gave us a lot of information, but let's try to pick out the important parts. Now I am going to underline the main ideas. I would underline Estela's name because she is the main person of this story. I would also underline the part about Estela, the spider monkey, being abandoned by her mother. Also, I will underline the part where she is traumatized and seeks love from a stuffed animal. Do you see how some sentences are not important to understanding the main idea? For example, we don't really need to know the date it happened or the adjectives that describe words. Let's read the underline parts of the text and try to construct a sentence about it. (A spider monkey named Estela was abandoned by her mother and now seeks comfort from a stuffed animal.”

5.      Guided Practice: “Now that we understand how summarizing works, let’s try the next paragraph together.”

Read: The soft toys have been introduced to Estela by zoo officials, who are really concerned that without the guidance of her mother, this tiny creature that weighed a mere 417 grams at birth, will perish. She now looks to them for comfort not only during the day, but also, at night, when she snuggles up to one, just like she would had have done, with her mother.

“Now let's try to underline the most important parts of the paragraph in order to get a short summary. (Ask students what parts they think should be underlined. You can recommend some parts such as the zoo officials gave Estela stuffed animals to cuddle with. If she didn't have this comfort, she could die.) Now that we have the important pieces let's work together to summarize it into a sentence: Zoo officials introduced Estela to the stuffed animals so she would have someone to cuddle with and not die.”

6.      Independent Practice: Now we are going to finish reading about Estela. There are two more paragraphs left that I want you to read and write a summary for each one into a sentence. Remember to focus on the main idea of each paragraph.

7.      Assessment: I will collect their summaries to see if they understand and grade them based on the assessment chart below. I will also ask them to answer questions that show me that they understood the text: What did Estela have to use to make her feel comfortable? Why did Estela have a hard time being comforted? What kind of monkey was Estela? Where was Estela staying?

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?










Dolasia, Merra. Abandoned Spider Monkey Seeks Solace From Stuffed Animals. March 2011.

Steeb, Cailtin. Short and Sweet Summarization.

Children with picture book [image].


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