Sum, Sum, Sum it up!

Learning to Read Design

Sydney Anderson



Rationale: Once children have learned to read accurately and fluently, they can then move on to the next step in reading! The ultimate goal of reading is comprehension. Once students can comprehend what they read then they can read to learn new information. This lesson focuses on summarizing, which solves the basic reading comprehension problem of reducing a large text made of hundreds or thousands of words into a few compact and memorable sentences. This lesson will help students learn to summarize by teaching them to delete trivial and redundant information and focus on the important parts of a text.



1.      Class set (including one for teacher) of the article "The Constitution of the United States" from Uncle Ben's Guide to U.S. Government:

2. Index card for each child

3. Markers (1 pack per group of students)

4. Poster with summarizing rules (1. Delete unimportant or repeated information 2. Find important information 3. Write a topic sentence)

5. Overhead projector

6. Pencil and paper (for each student)

7. Assessment chart:

Did the student…



Get rid of unimportant, trivial, and repeated information?



Underline important information?



Write an organized topic sentence, that is at least one complete sentence that includes details from the text?







1. "Today we're going to talk about a strategy to help us comprehend what we're reading. Who remembers what it means to comprehend? (Call on student.) That's right! It does mean to understand the message of what you're reading. The strategy we're going to learn about today is called summarizing. Summarizing is when you are able to read a lot of text and reduce the text to the most important information by deleting trivial and redundant information so that you can focus on the most important information. Summarizing is a great way to help you understand and remember the important parts of what you read.


2. "Before we learn more about how to summarize, let's review what we've been talking about lately. Who can tell me what we've been talking about in social studies? (Call on student.) That's right! We have been talking about the history of the United State. Now let's review an important vocabulary word, delegate, before we get started. A delegate is someone who represents someone else or a group of people. If we selected one person out of our class to represent our class, he or she would be a delegate. The United States selects delegates from each state to represent the state as a whole. How would having delegates from each class be helpful when having student council meetings? (Let students answer). Now let's see how well you understand the word. Complete this sentence: The boss chose two delegates from his company to… What would these delegates from his company do?


3. Now that we've reviewed our topic and vocabulary, let's go back to talking about summarizing. (Display summarizing rules poster.) You all have an index card and markers on your desks. I want you to copy down each rule on your index card as we talk about it. These are very important rules so make sure you write them nice and neat so that you can refer back to them. The first rule of summarizing is delete unimportant or repeated information. Deleting unimportant information means that if you see something that's not really important for the meaning of the text, or something that you have already marked as important, you may draw an X through it (if it's a separate article like the one we're using today) or mentally delete it (if it's in a textbook). The second rule of summarizing is to find important information.  This means that when you see something that you think is important to know you should underline it or maybe write down a key word or phrase. The third rule of summarizing is to write a topic sentence. This part is a little trickier, and we will practice it together. Writing a topic sentence means that once you've picked out the parts of the text that are important you combine them to create a sentence. This sentence captures all the important parts of a paragraph within a text.


4. "Now we are going to read about how the U.S. began to gain its independence. Who can tell me who George Washington is? Let's read and find out how he helped the U.S. begin to gain independence." Pass out copies of the text "The Constitution of the United States" and display a copy on the overhead projector. "Now we're going to practice summarizing as a class. Let's look at the first paragraph of our article:


After the American Revolution the states were functioning under the Articles of Confederation. As time passed it became clear that changes to this system had to be made. A convention of delegates from all the states except Rhode Island met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in May of 1787. George Washington was chosen president of the convention. By the end of the month it was decided that the best solution to the young country's problems was to set aside the Articles of Confederation and write a new constitution…. Three months later and after a lot of debate and compromise, on September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States was finally accepted by the delegates.


"As I read this out loud, listen as I model how to follow our rules so that we can effectively summarize this paragraph. Let's look at the first two sentences: 'After the American Revolution the states were functioning under the Articles of Confederation. As time passed it became clear that changes to this system had to be made.' The Articles of Confederation and changes had to be made should be underlined because that is they key concept in the first two sentences. Let's look at the next sentence. What information could we delete? We could get rid of "from all the states except Rhode Island" because that information is not important. I would underline convention of delegates and 1787. Why would we not underline May? Remember, we are wanting to notice the MOST important information, and sometimes full dates aren't that important. Now let's look at the next two sentences. In the first sentence I would underline George Washington and president because he is an important man in US history. Next I would cross out 'By the end of the month' because that is trivial information, distracting us from the main idea. Instead, I would underline 'the best solution' and 'new constitution' as the important information.  Finally, let's look at the last sentence. What information would we get rid of? I would cross out three months later because that is more trivial information. I would underline September 17, 1787 and 'Constitution of the United States' and 'accepted by the delegates'.


 So now that we've applied rules 1 and 2--deleting trivial information and underlining important information-- I'm going to demonstrate how to use rule 3 and create a topic sentence using the parts I underlined. What is the first thing I had underlined? Changes must be made to the Articles of the Confederation, correct? Then I underlined a convention of delegates and 1787; so, so far we have "A convention of delegates met in 1787 to address the changes needed to be made to the Articles of Confederation." Let's keep going. Next I underlined how George Washington was chosen as the president of the convention and the convention decided to the best solution would be a new constitution. Then we have one last important fact: on September 17, 1787, the new Constitution of the United States was accepted by the delegates. So, from all of this text we read, we can SUMMARIZE what we read by recapping the most important information:


 'A convention of delegates, with George Washington as the president, met in 1787 to address the changes needed to be made to the Articles of Confederation. The convention decided the best solution would be a new constitution, which was accepted by the delegates on September 17, 1787.'


Does everyone understand what I just did? I just simplified a long paragraph of text into two sentences by deleting trivial and unneeded information and focusing on the most important information.


5. Now I'm going to let you all practice summarizing with the rest of this article. I want you to go through each paragraph and break it down like we just did. Be sure to follow the rules for summarization. I want you to write a topic sentence for the next paragraph. When you are finished, staple your article to your paper with the topic sentence and turn it in. Then you may decorate your index card with your summarization rules on it. Make sure you keep this index card because these are important rules to remember!


Assessment: I will review each student's topic sentence as well as the markings on each of their articles. I will use the assessment checklist for each student listed above to know whether each student followed the rules and understood how to summarize accordingly. I will also ask reading comprehension questions to make sure the student is comprehending what they are reading: 1) Who was in charge of passing the Constitution? 2) What would have happened if nine states did not vote in favor of the Constitution?  


The next paragraph is:

The Founding Fathers now had to get all the states to agree that this was a good document and that they should vote in favor of it. This was the first great political question that faced Americans. Nine states had to vote for the Constitution for it to be accepted. On December 3, 1787, Delaware was the first state to vote in favor of (ratify) it. New Hampshire became the ninth state to accept the Constitution on June 21, 1788, ending government under the Articles of Confederation. It was not until May 29, 1790 that the last state, Rhode Island, finally accepted the Constitution.



Barron, Anne. Let's Summarize.


Deason, Morgan Grace. Soaring Into Summary.


Murray, Bruce. Making Sight Words. 2012.

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