Reading to Learn

Ready, Set, Summarize!

Kaleigh Nattrass 


Reading is the very first skill, in most cases, that we use when attempting to procure new information. Just as the process of reading takes a long time to progress, so does the process of finding significant information. Summarizing is a skill that all beginning readers need to rehearse in order to be successful in reading comprehension. Once readers can identify the main points of an article, they become a more accurate researcher, writer, and reader. During this lesson, students will get the opportunity to analyze a number of articles in attempt to find the main points of the text. Through these practices, the students will gain experience in summarization and eventually, acquire the necessary skills to summarize an article simply by reading it once.



o   Pencils (one for each student)

o   Paper

o   Class set of yellow highlighters

o   Class set of red highlighters

o   Summarization Activity Checklist:

            _____ I have written my topic sentence.

            _____ I have found supporting details to help answer the question.

            _____ I have removed unimportant information by crossing it out.

            _____ I have removed repeated ideas.

            _____ I have written a 3-5-sentence summary.

o   Individual Rubrics

o   Are Jellyfish Really Fish? Transparency for demonstration

o   Individual Hand Outs for

§  Are Jellyfish Really Fish?

§  Why Are Skunks Black and White?



1.    Introduce Summarizing.

Teacher says: “Today, our lesson is going to be about summarizing. Who can     remind me what summarize means? Very good! To summarize means to find the most important information in an article. In order to find this important information, what are some things we might have to do? Yes, we need to get rid of all the information that does not really help us answer the overall question. Our lesson today will help you become master summarizers!”


2.  Hand out “Summarization Checklist.”

Teacher Says: What I am passing out is something I like to call a ‘Summarization Checklist.’ This piece of paper has all the steps listed in order to help me summarize while I read. In order to become a good summarizer, we must first know what our summary is going to be about. The first step is to find the main idea in a reading passage and develop a topic sentence. Once I create a topic sentence, I can put a check mark on that line to help me keep track of what I have done. Next, it is important to provide enough detail when summarizing an article. Our next step is to read through the article and find the supporting, or helpful, details. That being said, we also need to be pay attention to the unimportant details that are not absolutely necessary to include in our summary. It is easiest to mark through these unimportant details. Sometimes articles will state the same idea multiple times. It is important that we recognize why the importance of that detail, because often times they are crucial, but once we have seen it once, we don’t need to see it again. After you have found your supporting details and eliminate unimportant or repeated details, you can begin to write your summary. A summary is a brief overview of what you have just read. This means it needs to stay short. Be sure not to copy word for word what was stated in the article, but to create a summary using your own words as much as you can.”


3.  Three Rules of Thumb:

Teacher says: ”As you can see, from your summarization checklist, there are really only three rules of thumb that you need to remember when you are summarizing.”

·      The first rule of thumb is to find the important details that will help you write your summary.

·      The second rule of thumb is to eliminate the unnecessary and unrelated details that you believe will not help you summarize.

·      Last but not least, you need to organize your ideas in a thoughtful way beginning with your topic sentence and continuing with the supporting details you found earlier.

“If you can stick to these three rules, summarizing will be a easy as pie!”


4.  Hand out copies of Are Jellyfish Really Fish?

Teacher says: “I am handing out an article titled, Are Jellyfish Really Fish? Before we begin, does anyone have any idea why they might be? Well we are going to find out in a second, but first, there are a few vocabulary words that we might need to know before reading this passage.”

·      “The first word is “defense”. Does anyone know what “defense” means? Let’s try and use context clues to figure out the meaning of the word. Everyone look at the sentence of the passage. It says, “most jellyfish use it as a defense against predators” Defense against predators, if we try to defend ourselves, do you think we are trying to protect ourselves or get ourselves in trouble? Right! Defense means the act of protecting yourself or someone else from harm. It does not mean to get yourself into trouble. So would someone protecting the quarterback in a football game be on the defense? Great! He is protecting the quarterback from harm. Help me finish this sentence; I dressed in clothes padded with pillows in… against the bully. In DEFENSE against the bully… Very good! I think we have all had to act in defense at one point or another! So now that we know that jellyfish use lights as defense from predators, lets find out if they are really fish!"


            Other words to be taught: predators, detect, sensory, aquatic


5.  Read the article aloud to the class.

Teacher says: Now that we that jellyfish really aren’t fish at all so, let’s think about how we would summarize this passage. Well, first, what is this article talking about? Jellyfist, very good! So we know that jellyfish is our main idea, jellyfish needs to be highlighted yellow because it is important. Now let’s find some important details that help us answer the question, are jellyfish really fish? Let’s look at the second paragraph. We need to see what it is the author is saying about skunks. Therefore, we need to look for key details and action words that will help us reach our conclusion.


“Some jellyfish, such as sea nettles, make their own light. They glow or give off flashes of light in the same way that fireflies do. This is known as bioluminescence. Some jellyfish use this light to attract prey. But most jellyfish use it as a defense against predators. Lighted up, a small jellyfish with long tentacles suddenly looks like a large animal.  They aren't actually fish; they're plankton. Jellyfish have no bones, brain, or heart. To see light, detect smells and orient themselves, they have rudimentary sensory nerves at the base of their tentacles.”



                Teacher says: Let’s begin by highlighting with yellow some of the words or ideas that we see a lot of. I see the word jellyfish and light a lot; these must be important. Now I need to find out why they are important, so I must look at the verbs the author uses. As I am highlighting these words in red, I am noticing that the light helps jellyfish catch prey and warn off predators. Because the article says that jellyfish have no bones, brain, or heart, they must not be fish!  Now I need to reread the paragraph and cross out the things that are not important. These include descriptions, repeated topics, and extra information that takes away from the main point of the article. We can really cross out the first sentence because it does not answer whether or not a jellyfish is a fish. In the next sentence, we can cross out the next sentence too because it only talks about how jellyfish give off light. We can also eliminate the third, fourth, and fifth sentences because they do not give us any hints as to whether or not a jellyfish is actually a fish. We can keep sentence six, however, because it begins to compare jellyfish and animals and we know that fish are animals. The next sentence, however, tells us right off the bat that a jellyfish is not actually a fish, so we definitely keep that information. The rest of the information is really crucial to explaining how a jellyfish functions although it is not a fish so we should keep that information just in case. What we know is that jellyfish are not really fish; they are plankton. From this paragraph alone, we’ve summarized that jellyfish cannot be fish because they do not have bones, a brain, or a heart, all things that a fish needs to survive. However, we learn that a jellyfish can be confused as a fish because it has some of the qualities of certain sea creatures, like the tentacles of an octopus. We also learned that jellyfish use their senses of sight and smell, as well as their nerves in their tentacles to figure out what is around them. See how easy summarizing is? Now, try and finish the article on your own!”


6.     After giving the students time to summarize, inform them that we must look for a topic sentence.

Teacher says: “Now that we have all of our important information, what will our topic sentence be? Remember, the topic sentence includes the main idea of the passage. We’ve learned that jellyfish are really not fish at all; they are plankton. My topic sentence could be: ‘Jellyfish are not fish; they are plankton.’”

Continue writing the summary with the students, looking for supporting details and excluding any unnecessary information. Once finished, review the summary with the students by using the summarization checklist.

Teacher says: Now that we are finished with our summary, let’s go back and check if we have all the necessary components for a good summary. Let’s see, do I have a topic sentence? Did I include supporting details? Did I get rid of unimportant information? Is my summary 3-5 sentences? Well done! We have a wonderful summary!”


7.     Pass out handouts of Why Are Skunks Black and White?

Teacher says: “Now that we have practice summarizing an article together, I want you to try on your own! This article is about those stinky animals that leave a really gross smell when they get scared! Who knows which animal I’m talking about? Great job, skunks! Let’s find out why skunks are black and white! Don’t forget, while you are reading don’t be afraid to look back at your summarization checklist for steps to help you summarize.


To assess the students on the process of summarizing, I will ask them to turn in their copy of the passage and examine it to see if they have picked out and crossed out the correct details. I will read over their summaries as if I did not know the answer. The students will be graded using this rubric:


When summarizing, did the student:



Construct a simple, topic sentence answering the question?



Delete unimportant information?



Include supporting details?



Delete repeated information?



Organize summary with big idea?





  • Discovery Kids, Are JellyFish Really Fish?,


  • Discovery Kids, Why Are Skunks Black and White?,