Reading to learn

Fun with Summaries

Reading to Learn



Rationale: After becoming a fluent reader, and moving on to more lengthy reading material, it is important to develop summarization skills. In learning how to summarize, children will learn how to pick out important facts which will help them understand the text more clearly and deeply when recalling the story or article. 

A copy of The Sub by P.J. Peterson for each student, paper, pencils and a highlighter.  Whiteboard and dry erase markers


  1. “Today I want to review silent reading.”  Pull out the teacher copy of The Sub.  “There are two steps I take to get to silent reading.  First I’ll start by whisper reading.”  Let the students hear you whisper read.  “Now I’m going to move my lips when I read, but no sound will come out.”  Show the students how to read silently.  “Now pull out your copies of The Sub.  I want you to take the steps I just took and try reading silently.  What great silent readers!”
  2. Teacher will discuss the term summarization – the importance of picking important information out of the text. "Summarization is a very powerful strategy to use when reading.  By summarizing, you are forgetting the trivial details and focusing on the main parts.  Trivial details are details that don’t really matter for the reader to understand what the author wants you to know about the story.  Today we are going to learn how to summarize from the book, The Sub.
  3. Introduce book to students by giving a book talk. "When James’ teacher is out sick, they are set to have a substitute.  Ugggh!  Who wants a substitute!?  Then James and his best friend Ray have the brilliant idea to play a prank on the sub by switching seats so that she thinks James is Ray, and Ray is James!  It doesn’t take long before this prank is no longer funny.  It gets worse, the sub is back the next day!  Will they ever be able to clear up this mess?  Let’s read to find out!"
  4. Have children read the first chapter silently.  While they are reading, write on the board Two important summarization steps:
    1. Delete trivial information.
    2. Form a topic sentence from important information.

4.  Have a question and answer time by asking specific short answer comprehension questions such as: Who is the main character? What happened to James family?  Who did he live with as a result?  What was his life like with them?

  1. Teacher will read aloud the first paragraph of Chapter one. Text is as follows:

James was playing catch with his best friend, Ray.  The first bell was about to ring, and the playground was crowded.  Kids were playing tetherball and wallball and four-square.

6.    After reading, go back through the paragraph and point out the important parts. Have children highlight them.  "Look at the first sentence. Is it important that we remember that the first bell was about to ring, or that James’ best friend is named Ray?”  These are the first characters mentioned, so they must be important in the story.  The fact that the first bell was about to ring doesn’t mean anything to the story, so it is trivial information and therefore should be deleted.  Highlight James, because his name is something important we need to remember.  Also Highlight Ray, because we need to know that he is James’ best friend." Continue through the page discussing paragraph by paragraph what is important.

  1. Have someone read first paragraph of chapter two.  Make two columns on the board- IMPORTANT and TRIVIAL.  Call on students to go through paragraph and list out the important things and trivial details as a class.  "By looking at the IMPORTANT column, who can form one topic sentence to summarize the first paragraph? I want each of you to write a topic sentence on your paper."  Have students share topic sentences.

8.   Have children read the rest of Chapter two silently.  Have children write on paper a summary of chapter two by combining topic sentences from each page.

  1. Assessment: Collect children’s papers and read over summaries asking: 

a.       Was trivial information deleted?

b.      Was summary comprised of important information?   


 Peterson, P.J.  The Sub.  New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1993.


“Sum it all up!”

Leslie Rosebrough