Reading to Learn: Boil it Down to Sum it up

Boil it Down to Sum it up

Hope Roberts

RL Design

Rationale: When students become avid readers, one of the most important goals for them to reach is comprehension of the text. As teachers there are many ways we can check for students understanding of text, a key strategy for checking comprehension is summarizing. When a students summarizes text, they determine the main idea, then address various important facts. Summarizing helps students better understand what they have read by getting rid of all of the extra information, and focusing on the main ideas. This lesson aims to teach students the skills they need to summarize an article, and find the meaning within the text. Students will be guided by the following summarization rules: identify the topic sentence, cross out all repeated ideas and unimportant details, and highlight the important ideas then combine them into one sentence.



Summarization rules on a poster

Class set of “Green Invaders”

Class set of “Honey Bee Mystery

Rules Poster

Document Camera




1.Tell students, “Today we will be learning a new skill called summarizing. Has anyone ever hear the word summarizing? Summarizing is a tool we can use to help us better comprehend texts, so we can become even better readers. A summary is short description of a story or article that only contains the main facts and ideas. Before we can start summarizing on our own, we must learn the rules to follow so we can summarize! First we must determine the main idea of the article, we know the main idea is the overall point and what message the article is trying to convey. Next we must cross out all of the extra information that is not important to the main idea. The last thing we do is highlight all of the important and useful information we have found, and combine it into a few sentences. One very important rule of summarizing is to make we are making our own sentences and using our own words, not copying everything form the author. Now that we know a bit more about summarizing, lets see if we can try it out ourselves.


2. Pull out the summarization rules poster, and place it on the board. Say to students, “Now we are going to read an article, and see if we can try to summarize it. Lets make sure not to forget our summarization rules as we are completing this activity. Remember when we summarize we need to use our own words, and not copy the authors sentences. The best way to make your own ideas is to go over all of the important information and take notes. Then it will be easier for you to pick out the repeated and unimportant information, and cross it out. Before I pass out the article we will be reading, lets go over some vocabulary words we will find in the article.”

Vocabulary words:

-Food Web





Vocabulary Practice: (follow this same process for each word)

-“First lets look at the word invader, an invader is a person or thing that invades a country region or place. Can any one thing of someone or something that could be an invader? Can anyone use the word invade in a sentence? After we read this article we will find out how exotic plants our invading or yards”


3. Next model how students will summarize by reading, “Green Invaders”. Give every students a copy of the article and give the following book talk, “Now we will read this article about how foreign plants are growing in America and threatening native plant and animal life. Lets read to find out what exactly these plants are doing, and if there is a solution.” Explain to students that you will first be reading the passage together, and not making any marks just following along. After you have read the article pick out a passage to model how students will summarize. Say, “Now I am going to show you how to properly summarize this first paragraph. Remember I am going to cross out all of the unimportant details, and highlight all of the main points to put into a sentence. We cross out and highlight things so we have visual reminders and we know what information we need, and what we don't.   The following question will help us determine what is information is important and not important: What is it the article about, and is this sentence important to the article’s subject? What is the point? While I model these first paragraphs, I want everyone to keep these questions in mind.




Green invaders are taking over America. Nope, not invaders from space. Plants. You might not think of plants as dangerous, but in this case they are threatening nature's delicate food web.
 The invaders are plants from other countries brought here to make gardens and yards look pretty.  Ever since people started to arrive on America's shores, they've carried along trees, flowers, and vegetables from other places.
Now there are so many of those plants, they are crowding out the native plants that have lived here since before human settlers arrived.
 And that's a problem, says Dr. Doug Tallamy. He's an entomologist (an insect expert) at the University of Delaware. He explains that almost all the plant-eating insects in the United States—90% of them—are specialized. That means they eat only certain plants.

Monarch butterfly caterpillars, for example, dine on milkweed. If people cut down milkweed and replace it with another plant, the butterflies will not have the food source that they need to survive.


Big Idea: Foreign plants

Why: Foreign plants are harming native plants


Summary: Foreign plants have made their way to America. These plants are posing a threat to native plants by overpopulating and killing the native plants


Guided Practice:

“Now that I have showed you how to summarize the first paragraph, lets try to summarize the rest of the article together.”




But the trouble doesn't stop there, it goes right across the food web. When insects can't get the right plants to eat and they die off, then the birds don't have enough bugs for their meals. Tallamy points out that almost all migrating birds depend on insects to feed their young.

"We cannot let the plants and animals around us disappear," says Tallamy. "The way to preserve them is to give them food to eat. But when we plant non-native plants, we are clobbering the food web, because then we don't have the insects the birds need to live."

Fewer of the right plants mean fewer bugs, and fewer bugs mean fewer birds. And that's bad for the Earth, because we need a variety of living things to keep the planet healthy and beautiful.

The good news is, gardeners everywhere are working hard to protect native plants and get rid of the invaders. Many local garden centers sell native plants. "Just Google 'native plants' and your location, and you can find out which plants really belong where you live," says Tallamy.

Planting the right things makes a real difference, and fast. He describes planting milkweed in a tiny city courtyard about the size of a living room one spring. By summertime, that milkweed patch had produced 50 new monarch butterflies!

Tallamy encourages kids to go out and plant native plants. "Adopt a bird species in trouble and see if you can't plant some things that will attract the insects they need," he suggests. "It will happen—insects move around a lot, and they will find the plants you put out there for them!"


Big Idea: The foreign plants affect Insects and animals also


Why: The more native plants that die the less food for the insects that live off of those plants, leading to a riff in the food chain


Summary: Foreign plants cause trouble by killing native plants leading to lack of food for insects and various other specious. We can help the issue by planting more native plants in our yards.


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. Your vocabulary words for this article are: pollen, hive, and colony. 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 the attached rubric. Ask students the following comprehension questions:

-What do plants do beside produce honey?

-What is one reason why scientists believe bees are dying?







Did the student:

Delete Unimportant Information?


Delete repeated information?


Organize items with a big idea?


Select a topic?





National Geographic Kids “Honey Bee Mystery” by: Catherine Fox:


National Geographic Kids “Green Invaders” by: Catherine Fox:


 “Simply Summarize” by: Jennifer Bruha:


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