Sum Up the Story

Reading to Learn (Summarizing)

By: Megan Stephenson

The goal of reading is for the reader to be able to fully read the text and understand what it is they are reading. Sometimes, in a lengthy text, children may be able to read but not comprehend what they have spent time reading. This lesson will help students summarize what they are reading by deleting trivial information and focusing on what is important. Eventually, this will help students with their comprehension and make reading much more enjoyable.





Black markers

Copy of the article "History of the Titanic" that I have inserted from a website

Poster with the first example paragraph written on it

Poster and individual copies with rules on it – 1. Mark out any unnecessary information 2.classify and rank items and events 3.Create a topic sentence from the information


1.Today, we are going to work on a new skill that will help us learn more about the stories and other things that we read. We will learn how to read a text and then come up with a shortened version about what we remember reading. Who knows what this word means, "summary"? (I will write this word on the board and give children a chance to respond before telling them the answer). That’s right, a summary tells about the important information we read in a text. When we make a summary, we are taking the whole text and making it a shorter version to help us understand easier. When you are able to summarize, then you know you understood what they story was about.

2. I am going to read this long sentence to you then I want you to read it silently. Do you know what it means to read "silently"? (I will give the children a chance to answer, then briefly explain it if needed).Yes! It means to read it to yourself and don’t let anyone else hear you. Watch me, and I’ll show you an example of what I mean. (I will model for the steps I want them to take). "Last Tuesday, at 12:00, I was very busy folding laundry and watching my favorite tv show so I missed the phone call from my sister who lives in Washington" (now read it silently to model how to do it). Now I am going to read the rest of the paragraph aloud and I want each of you to follow along with me silently (Just to model, I will read it aloud while they follow along silently).

3. Now, let’s talk about what we think is important from this last passage we read. What is the one most important central idea in this paragraph?. "Last Tuesday, at 12:00, I was very busy folding laundry and watching my favorite tv show so I missed the phone call from my sister who lives in Washington". First, let’s decide what words are most important. Is the exact time important? No, but we may want to know what day it was. Is the sister’s hometown important? No, but we do want to know she missed a phone call. And, why did she miss the call? We need to know that too! So, Let’s highlight the words Last Tuesday and busy and missed the phone call from my sister. Now, we have some words left that we decided aren’t that important. What do we do with them? Well, Rule #1 says to get rid of it so we will mark it out so it doesn’t distract us (continue through the rest of the paragraph, crossing out unnecessary information and highlighting the important information).

4. So, we now have decided what the important idea is. We can now make up a summary. Let’s use the parts we highlighted to make a summary. I will point out the first fact that I find important and then the students will follow just what I did (have each student help pointing out the important information).

5. Great, you all have done wonderful! I think we did great with the practice. But, we need to make sure we know our rules for summarizing before we can move on. When we summarize text, there are 3 important rules we need to remember. (The students will also be given a sheet of paper with the rules on it.) 1. Mark out any unnecessary information 2.classify and rank items and events 3.Create a topic sentence from the information

6. Now, we are going to use all the great information we just learned and apply it to the latest topic we are reading about, the Titanic. We are going to look at an article about this great ship that has a very sad ending. Many people still study this ship today and people still tell stories about its tragic ending. In order to find out more information about the Titanic and what happened to it, you all will need to read the article I am going to give each of you. Here are some highlighters, markers, paper, pencils and a copy of the article for each of you. We are going to read the first paragraph together and go through the same steps. Then, I am going to let you start on the second paragraph by yourself as practice. During this second paragraph, work with the person next to you to figure out if you both got the gist of the paragraph and were able to get a good summary. Check each other’s answers and collaborate your ideas!

7.  Since you have collaborated and had plenty of practice by yourself, you are going to do the third paragraph alone. Please remember the rules and remember that I would like each of you to take your highlighters and while we are reading, highlight the important information, then take your marker and cross out the information that is not important. Then take the highlighted information and make a sentence out of it.

8. While you are trying to summarize that last paragraph, make sure to read the article silently and make sure you use the three rules to help you. I will have the rules posted on the board in case you forget. After you have the most important parts and have deleted the other words, write your summary and turn your paper over and you may read until the rest of the class is finished.

9. Once the entire class has summarized, we will turn our papers back over and discuss as a class what we think the proper summary is for this paragraph. Our answers may be slightly different but should all have the same important ideas. Let’s get started!

In order to assess what the children have done, ask them to turn in their completed work in order for you to assess it. If the majority of the students need more assistance, include another activity with more modeling. If only a few need assistance, pull them at a different time during the day or keep them a few minutes during lunch or after school if needed to assure they understand. Also, you might could send extra parent/home practice with the students who struggled with the concept.


1. " History of the Titanic"

2. Adams, Marilyn Jager. Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print. Illinois. 1990. 148 pgs

3. Haley Davis' Sum It All Up! -

4.Elizabeth Bell: Ready…Set…Sum


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* I have taken these passages directly from the source listed above to make it more simplified for the students.

1. For this passage, I will model summarization.

The Maiden Voyage of the RMS Titanic

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic set out for New York City from Southampton, England. White Star Line highly publicized the Titanic's maiden voyage. They went so far as to call the ship "unsinkable." The promotion campaign attracted many prominent members of British and American society including nobility and wealthy industrialists. After two stops, one in France and one Ireland. The Titanic began its transatlantic crossing with 2,216 passengers.

2. This passage will be used as practice and we will review it.

The Night of April 14

The history of the Titanic was forever altered when the ship struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912. Having received iceberg warnings via wireless telegraph, Captain Edward Smith altered the ship's course. However, the radio operators were more concerned with relaying private messages to passengers than passing along updated iceberg warnings to the bridge. At approximately 11:40 p.m., lookouts spotted an iceberg directly in the path of the ship. Evasive action was taken in an attempt to avoid the collision. A sharp turn to the port side was ordered, and the iceberg struck the ship on the right side damaging the hull. Captain Smith ordered a full stop to assess the damage. Initially, only five compartments were flooded, and the watertight doors had been closed to prevent additional flooding. However, water was able to flow over the top of bulkheads and in through normal openings causing two more compartments to flood. It quickly became obvious the Titanic would sink.

3. The student(s) will use this passage to complete summarization on their own.

Evacuating the Ship

The first lifeboat was lowered about an hour after the collision. It had a 65 person capacity; only 19 were aboard. Tragically, many of the lifeboats were launched far under capacity. This is attributable to several factors. Assured by the still working electricity and seeming calm, many passengers didn't think the ship was sinking. In addition, many of the third class passengers became lost or trapped in the ship and didn't make it to the lifeboats. Due to a women and children first rule, many men did not board lifeboats despite there being space.

Radio operators broadcasted distress signals, but the RMS Carpathia, the closest ship, was four hours away. All but two lifeboats were successfully launched. Eventually, the Titanic split and was completely sunk by 2:20 a.m. Roughly four hours after receiving the distress call, the Carpathia arrived and began rescue efforts. More than 1,500 people died.