The Big Idea!

The Big Idea!

 Reading to Learn

Lindsey Smith


Rationale: When students have started reading, one of the most important things is comprehension, so we know if students understand the text. A key strategy to test for reading comprehension is summarizing. When students summarize a text, they are choosing the main ideas and highlighting the important facts. This helps them understand their reading easier because it is shortened and then they are able to comprehend the main idea. This lesson will aid students in gaining the skills to summarize an article, in order to understand the deeper meaning behind the message. Students will use the following summarization rules: choose a topic sentence, cross out unimportant details or repeated ideas, and highlight important ideas and put into one sentence.



Paper for students

Pencils for students

Highlighters for students


Assessment Checklist

Class set of article, “Drinking Water: Bottled or From the Tap?”

Class set of article, “Tigers Cuddle with Apes”

Rules Poster



1. "Hey boys and girls! Today, we are going to learn about a new thing called summarizing! This will help us to comprehend the stories we read as well as become even better readers! Can anyone tell me what a summary is? Yes, that’s right! It is a shorter description of a long story or article, and it contains only the main facts and ideas. In order to summarize, we will first need to learn our summarization rules! First, we must choose the main idea of the article. Then, we need to cross out useless sentences or repeated ideas, these sentences are not important to the main idea. Finally, the last thing we do is highlight the important facts and ideas and shrink these into just a few sentences. Are ya’ll ready to try it? Let's get started!"


2. "We will practice by reading an article and summarizing it. (I will post the summarization rules on a poster board and have it hanging in the front of the room). Make sure you look back at our summarization rules on the board as you are doing this. Also, make sure you put the summary in your own words; your sentence should not sound too similar to the author’s words. The best way to do this is to read slowly, reread important parts, and make notes. Once you’ve done this cross out unimportant and redundant information next. But before we get started, we will review our vocabulary words!"

Vocabulary list: pollution, recycle, landfill, and environment.

 Practice: (Use this process for each vocabulary word)

-Let's look at what the word pollution means. Pollution happens when the environment is contaminated, or dirtied, by waste, chemicals, and other harmful substances.

-What are some things that cause pollution? Right, too many cars can cause pollution!  What is one way we can prevent pollution? We could use more public transportation.

-After we read our new article, we will learn different ways to prevent pollution of our environment!

-Finish the sentence: __________ can pollute our environment. (Possible responses—factories, cars and trucks, plastic bottles)


3. Model: After going over the vocabulary words and the rules with the students, model how to summarize by reading, "Drinking Water: Bottled or From the Tap?” Pass out a copy of the article to each student and give a book talk:

"We are going to read an article about how water bottles can effect our environment. How many of you drink out of plastic water bottles? Let’s read to figure out why these plastic bottles are bad for our environment and what we can do to help out!”

 First, we are going to read the whole passage together. We don't need to make any marks just yet. Then, model a part of the passage to show the students what summarizing looks like. Pose a question: "How would I summarize this first paragraph? I am going to show you first! I will cross out unimportant details, then underline important details and put into one sentence. Here are a few guiding questions to help you understand what is important and what is not important are the following: What is it the article about and is this sentence important to the article’s subject? What is the point? Ask yourself these questions as you are reading. Watch as I model the first two paragraphs."


If your family is like many in the United States, unloading the week’s groceries includes hauling a case or two of bottled water into your home. On your way to a soccer game or activity, it’s easy to grab a cold one right out of the fridge, right? But all those plastic bottles use a lot of fossil fuels and pollute the environment. In fact, Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation in the world, adding 29 billion water bottles a year to the problem. In order to make all these bottles, manufacturers use 17 million barrels of crude oil. That’s enough oil to keep a million cars going for twelve months. 

Big Idea? Bottled water and pollution (Highlight these words)

Why? Making plastic bottles pollutes our environment. It requires lots of fossil fuels and crude oil. (Highlight)

Summary: The convenient plastic water bottles we drink out of every day can really pollute our environment, because of the fossil fuel and oil that is used to produce them. 

4. Guided Practice: "Now, let's try summarizing the rest of this article together! Everyone read the last few paragraphs with me." (Model this on the Smartboard)

            So why don’t more people drink water straight from the kitchen faucet? Some people drink bottled water because they think it is better for them than water out of the tap, but that’s not true. In the United States, local governments make sure water from the faucet is safe. There is also growing concern that chemicals in the bottles themselves may leach into the water.

            People love the convenience of bottled water. But maybe if they realized the problems it causes, they would try drinking from a glass at home or carrying water in a refillable steel container instead of plastic. Plastic bottle recycling can help—instead of going out with the trash; plastic bottles can be turned into items like carpeting or cozy fleece clothing.

            Unfortunately, for every six water bottles we use, only one makes it to the recycling bin. The rest are sent to landfills. Or, even worse, they end up as trash on the land and in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Plastic bottles take many hundreds of years to disintegrate. Water is good for you, so keep drinking it. But think about how often you use water bottles, and see if you can make a change.


Big idea? Recycling plastic bottles or drinking out of a steel container instead of plastic can help our environment!

Why? If we recycle our plastic bottles they can be used to make better things and it will not cause pollution.

Summary?  We should try using less plastic bottles and recycling more to cut back on the pollution caused by plastic water bottle production in the landfill.

5. Whole Text: Give the students a new article to read and have them summarize this on their own. "Now you will practice our summarizing skills on your own with a new article, “Tigers Cuddle with Apes”, by National Geographic Kids. This article tells a story about how a zookeeper took care of a tiger and ape together and they became great friends. You will have to keep reading to find out all about what they did together! The vocabulary words for this section are: zookeeper, instinct, exhibit. Read the entire article and remember to highlight important facts and details, cross out useless facts, and write a summarizing sentence after each paragraph on your own sheet of paper. Ask yourself: What is the big idea? What's the point? Good luck!"

Assessment: As an assessment, take up students’ sentences and use the rubric below to grade their summarizing skills.

 Did the Summarizer...

Delete unimportant information?


Delete repeated information?


Organize items with big idea?


Select a topic?



Also, ask comprehension questions such as:

            Why are the tiger and ape raised together?

            What happened when they got older?

            Is this a good idea to raise animals together?



National Geographic Kids

“Drinking Water: Bottled or From the Tap?

 National Geographic Kids

"Tigers Cuddle with Apes”

 Sinking Into Summarization by Jillian Induni

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