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Sum, Sum, Sum It Up!

Sum, Sum, Sum It Up!

Reading to Learn

Caroline Brennan

Rationale: Once children have learned to read accurately and fluently, they must move on to the next step in reading. The ultimate goal of reading is comprehension, and the next step in reading is reading to learn. This lesson focuses on summarizing, a strategy to help students begin to read to learn. 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.


·      Bookmarks with summarization rules on it

1.     Delete and mark out unimportant or repeated information

2.     Find and highlight important information

3.     Form a topic sentence from the important information

·      SmartBoard

·      Pencil, highlighters, and paper

·      Summarization Assessment Checklist

·      Copies of the article, "New Dolphin Species Discovered in Big City Harbor" (one per student, one for teacher) Ker Than. Published by National Geographic News.

·      Copies of the article, "Honeybee Mystery" (one per student, one for teacher) by Catherine Clarke Fox. Published by National Geographic Kids.


1.     Say: "Today we are going to be talking about summarizing. Does anyone know what summarizing means? Summarizing basically means to find the main ideas in the text. We need to use summarizing when we read so we make sure and comprehend the story. Does anyone know what comprehend means? Comprehend just means to understand something. Summarizing is one of the steps that helps us comprehend the text."

Now review with them the Summarization Checklist (stated above):

1.     Delete and Mark out unimportant or repeated information

2.     Find and highlight important information

3.     Form a topic sentence from the important information

2.     "Today, we will practice by reading an article and summarizing it. (Post the         summarization rules on a word document on your laptop connected to the smartboard and turn on the projector for the students to see). Make sure you refer to our summarization rules as you are doing this, and make sure you put the summary in your own words. The best way to do this is to read slowly, reread important parts, and to make notes. Before we get started, we will review our vocabulary words." Vocabulary list: enable, pollen, pollinators, and colonies

3.     To review the vocabulary, I will do the following for each word: explain what it means using a student-friendly definition, model how to use it in a sentence, provide sample questions for using the word, and scaffold the students in making a sentence with the word. Example: "Our first word is 'enable'. Enable means to give authority or allow to do something. An example is, ‘I enable you to speak aloud when you raise your hand in class.” Now you can have a chance to make a sentence using this word. My parents enable me by… (let students answer) “letting me eat candy, stay up late, etc.”

4.     Next model how students summarize by reading “New Dolphin Species Discovered in Big City Harbor.” Give every student a copy and then give the following booktalk, “This article is about a new species of dolphin that was discovered in Australia.  How do you think this species of dolphin will be different from any dolphin that you have seen?” (Article is short so that it will not be overwhelming.) Great! Now, the first thing I want to do is pick out any information in the article that is not important. I don't think we really need to know that Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia. Let's all take our pencil and cross that sentence out. Next, we need to highlight and locate important pieces of information in the text. For example, when it says, “The new dolphin has been named the Burrunan dolphin, after an Aboriginal phrase meaning "large fish of the porpoise kind," we need to highlight the name of the new dolphin. Lastly, we need to write our topic sentence. Next, we need to create our topic sentence. We know that the article is about a new species of dolphin, so maybe our topic sentence could be a new species of dolphin has been discovered in Australia. Now we can use our topic sentence and the information that we have left to write our summary. On your own paper, write the topic sentence and the rest of the information that we have left in your own words. (Walk around to scaffold the writing.) Another idea would be to use about/point to create the topic sentence. Ask the students, "What is it about?" and "What is the main point?"

5.     Pass out the article “Honeybee Mystery”. Say, “Now you will practice your summarizing skills on your own with the article I passed out. This article discusses how bees are mysteriously dying, and how they play a crucial role in our environment. You’ll have to read to find out what exactly is happening to the bees. Remember your vocabulary words for this article are: enable, pollen, pollinators, and colonies. While you are reading the article remember to highlight the important information, and cross out the unimportant information. After each paragraph, write a summary sentence asking yourself the questions: What’s the big idea? What’s the point?”

Assessment: When students are finished collect their sentences and grade them using this rubric:

·      Delete/Mark out unimportant information?

·      Highlight the important words and information?

·      Reduce text to few words?

·      Write an inclusive, simple topic sentence to summarize the passage?

Ask students the following comprehension questions:

-What do plants do beside produce honey?

-Why do scientists believe bees are dying?

-Why do plants produce honey?


National Geographic News. Ker Than. "New Dolphin Species Discovered in Big City Harbor". 16 September 2011. Web. 4 November 2014. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/110916-new-dolphin-species-australia-science-plos-melbourne/

National Geographic Kids. Fox, Catherine. "Honeybee Mystery"

Honey bee passage.docx (National Geographic Kids link doesn't work, but I attached the article as a document.)

“Boil it Down to Sum it Up” Hope Roberts. https://sites.google.com/site/ctrdreadinghope/reading-to-learn-boil-it-down-to-sum-it-up

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Caroline Brennan,
Nov 15, 2014, 8:47 AM