Summarizing is a Piece of Cake






 Marlee Shaw


Rationale: When a student is reading to learn, he or she is able to fluently read and comprehend passages. It is important that they are able to summarize the text in order to understand the main idea. In this lesson, students will learn the components of summarization by observed the skill being modeled by the teacher. Then, students will have the opportunity to summarize a passage on their own with scaffolding by the teacher.


Materials: articles from, pencils, paper, assessment forms




1. Summarizing is an important skill for a good reader to have. Summarizing is taking a long passage and putting the main idea into one or a few sentences. Summarizing is a strategy that you can use for reading comprehension.


2. Review Before we begin, let's talk about a new vocabulary word that we will see in the passage. Lets look at what the word fatal means.

              1. The word fatal means deadly.

              2. Swallowing rat poison would be fatal, but eating a piece of candy that is a few days past the expiration date would not be fatal.

              3. Would it be fatal if I ignored a "TESTING DO NOT DISTURB" sign or a " DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE" sign?

              4. It would be fatal if I . . .


3. Explain When you summarize, you are simply trying to find the main idea of the story. You are looking for important information to help you get the topic of the story. First, you need to delete trivia and unimportant sentences. So, how will I summarize a passage about alligators?


4. The article that we will read and summarize is about alligators. Alligators can be very dangerous and we are about to find out if they really are dinosaurs! The title tells me that I am looking for the answer to the question, "Are alligators really dinosaurs?" I know that based on the title the passage could be about alligators and their similarities with dinosaurs. I will use my pencil to mark out tiny details. I will also mark out parts that will not change the meaning of the passage if they are deleted. Next, use your pencil to underline the important details.



Are Alligators Really Dinosaurs?

While fatal attacks are out of the norm, non-fatal attacks, unfortunately, are not as rare. The fact is: alligators can be dangerous. An alligator's brain weighs only eight or nine grams; it would take up only one-half of a tablespoon. This lack of brainpower means there is no such thing as a "nice alligator." If it's hungry, an alligator will eat anything that moves, including humans. Danger and scariness aside, alligators are amazing animals. They've been around for millions of years, and they're about as close as we'll probably ever get to seeing a living dinosaur.


Summary: Although alligators are dangerous, they are amazing animals because they are the closest thing we'll ever get to seeing a living dinosaur.


5. Let's try the next paragraph together. Remember, if what you have written is longer than the passage, it is not a summary. Only write important information that has the main idea of the text.


 You'd think that any animal as stinky as a skunk would want to slink away in shame and disguise itself, but the exact opposite is true. And to understand skunks better, it helps to understand why most other forest animals appear in far less flashier colors. It's not because raccoons, chipmunks and other critters like being fashionably modest with their gray and brown fur coats -- it's because they need to survive. Their muted colors help them blend in easily with their surroundings and hide from enemies. Skunks, on the other hand, are a whole different matter--they have no need to fear predators because predators are too busy fearing them! And the skunk's distinctive black and white colors ensure that potential enemies make no mistake about who they're messin' with. A skunk literally raises a BIG stink when defending itself--it sprays foul-smelling liquid musk from the scent glands under its tail. As if the odor weren't bad enough, the oil can sting predators on impact. In most cases, a confrontation doesn't even reach this point because the flash of a skunk's bright black and white pattern is enough of a warning!

Summary: Skunks do not need camouflaged fur because they can defend themselves from predators.

Now that we've practiced a few times, try the next paragraph on your own. Remember to:

        1. Mark out unimportant information.

        2. Decide what words are most important.

        3. Write your summary in 1-3 sentences.


Students will read the article Do Vampire Bats Drink Blood?



6. When you finish with your summary, find a partner and use the assessment sheet to evaluate each other's summary. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. The only way you can get better is to practice, practice, practice! Making mistakes at least means that you are trying. Just do your best!


(Have students staple their summary to their assessment sheet that was completed by their partner. Go over the assessment checklists to ensure each student was able to complete the summary. If a student had trouble, they may receive supplemental instruction.)



Did the student...



Delete unimportant information?



Delete repeated information?



Organize items with a big idea?



Select a topic?



Write a simple topic sentence to summarize the text?

















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