Reading to Learn Design

Snowy Summaries!

A Reading to Learn Lesson Design

By: Jessica Clark


Rationale: The ultimate goal of reading is to teach children reading comprehension. After learning to read accurately and fluently students can then transition into reading to learn. This is a lesson designed to teach students to read to learn by using summarization – a helpful strategy in reading comprehension. This lesson focuses on deleting trivial and redundant information in order to focus on the meaningful parts of the text.



·      Class set (including one for the teacher) of Polar Bears Listed as Threatened

·      Polar bear shaped bookmark (big and blank) for each student

·      Overhead projector

·      One pencil and a piece of lined paper for each student

·      Highlighter for each student

·      Paper with summarization rules

o   1. Delete unimportant or repeated information

o   2. Find important information

o   3. Write a topic sentence

·      Assessment chart (attached below)

·      Comprehension questions typed on paper:

o   1.  Why are Polar Bears considered threatened?

o   2.  What is the cause of polar bears becoming endangered?

o   2.  Is anything happening to stop it?



1.     Say: “Today we are going to learn about a new reading strategy that we, as readers should know. When we read we should be able to summarize what we just read.  What does summarize mean? [call on student]. Yes! Summarizing means that we can find and retell the most important information in the text to someone else. Do we say every single word we read when we summarize? [wait for responses from students]. No! We just focus on the main ideas and ignore all the unimportant small details. I am looking forward to all of you working hard and trying to summarize today so that we can be skilled readers!”


2.     Say: “Now, before we move on to summarization, we are going to go over vocabulary.  First, can anyone remember or remind the rest of the class what a habitat is? [allow wait time]. Right!  A habitat is like a natural home or environment for an animal. We have been learning about worms, so where would a worm’s habitat be? [Call on a student]. Yes! In the moist ground. Earlier this semester we learned about guppies, where is there habitat? [call on a few students].


Another word we need to reevaluate is threaten. What do you think that threaten would mean? [call on a few students to assess their knowledge] If I said dinosaurs were threatened before they became extinct what do you think it means? Right! Threaten means to cause someone or something to become at risk, or endanger them.


The last word we need to discuss is the word vulnerable.  Does anyone know what vulnerable means? [call on a few students]. If I said ‘when their nest fell in the store the birds were vulnerable.’ What do you think it means?  [call on a student].  Right! Vulnerable means sensitive to physical or emotional attack or harm. Now that we have reviewed some words, we are going to move on and practice summarizing.


3.     Say: “Now that we all agree on what summarizing is and understand some unfamiliar vocabulary, I want to tell you about how you summarize.  I am going to have my student helpers help me pass out some very special book marks. The bookmarks are blank, so you’re going to have to use your pencils to write on them.  As we talk I want you to write the summarizing rules that we are going to use[show summarizing rules on Smartboard slide or overhead projector].  This are the rules I use when I am summarizing while I read.  The first rule is to ‘delete unimportant or repeated information’. This means that when I am reading and I know the purpose of the meaning of the text, when I come across information that is not important to the meaning I can draw a line through it (if it’s an article like we will be reading today). So now I want all of you to write the first rule down, and give me a thumbs up when you’re finished [give about 1-minute] The second rule says, ‘find important information.’ This means that when you I’m reading something and I know it is important to the meaning of the text I should underline it. Or I could use a pencil and write down a few key words if I am reading in my textbook. So go ahead and write rule number two down. [allow another 1-2 minutes of writing time].  The third and last rule is, ‘write a topic sentence.’  This is actually a little challenging for most readers, including Mrs. Clark. This rule means that once you have read and deleted repeated or unimportant information and have figured out what it is about (the main ideas and points), you can combine them all into one topic sentence.  A topic sentence captures the most important parts of the text into one sentence.  So now you can write the third and final rule on your bookmark and you can keep it in your books as you read to help you remember how to summarize!”


4.     Pass out copies of “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened,” and display a copy on the board using the overhead projector.  Say,  “I am going to give you copies of an article called, “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened” and we are going to practice summarizing as a class.” Booktalk: “This is an article by National Geographic Kids. It is about polar bears that live in the Arctic. However, the climate is getting warmer and the Arctic sea ice is melting, meaning that the Polar bears are endangered.  The U.S., however, is still using areas where polar bears live to explore options to find oil. Do you think this is a good idea or bad? What could we change to help polar bears? [Call on a few students and allow time for class discussion and conversations about possible answers].  Now together, I want us to summarize the article.  I am going to help you with the first paragraph, then I am going to I am going to let you do the rest by yourself.  First, I am going to cross out any unimportant or repeated information. Then I am going  to highlight any important information. Lastly, I will write a topic sentence in the margin for each paragraph. I want you to follow along on this first paragraph and mark it as I mark it.”


“So let’s try the first sentence.  I am going to read it to out loud then highlight the important parts.”


 Polar bears were added to the list of threatened species and will receive special protection under U.S. law.


“So the important part about this sentence is that polar bears are added to the list of threatened species. Now let’s look at the next sentence:”


In his statement, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne noted that the decline of Arctic sea ice is the greatest threat to the bears.


“So I crossed through the info the part that talked about who was making the statement, and just took the important part that the decline of arctic sea ice is the reason the bears are endangered. Now, I’m going to read the rest out loud and mark it as I read.”


Polar bears live in the Arctic and hunt seals and other fatty marine mammals from sea ice. They also travel, mate, and sometimes give birth on the ice. But sea ice is melting as the planet warms, and it is predicted to continue to do so for several more decades.


That time I crossed out Polar Bears because we have already read that a few times, so it is repeated information.  Then I highlighted hunt and arctic sea ice because it is important that they get their food from the arctic sea ice.   However, I crossed out what they hunted because it is irrelevant to the topic of the article.  Lastly, I highlighted that the ice is melting due to the planet warms because we figured out that it is important that the ice is melting and that is why the Polar Bears are endangered. However, the fact that it is supposed to continue to decrease is not important, so I crossed it out.”


“Okay, so now that we have done that paragraph we need to find the topic sentence.  So in order to find the topic sentence we need to ask ourselves, what is the main idea of this paragraph? What is this paragraph about? So we need to combine all of the important information that we highlighted and put them together to make a sentence. My topic sentence is going to be: Polar bears were added to the U.S. list of threatened species because as the planet warms the arctic sea ice is melting.” [model writing the topic sentence in the margin].


Does anyone have any questions about what we just did? Is there anything anyone doesn’t understand?


5.     Say: “Now that we have summarized a few sentences together, and you have gotten the opportunity to write a topic sentence I want you to work in pairs and summarize the next paragraph. I will give you about 5 minutes to read, discuss, cross out, highlight, and write a topic sentence in the margin. I want you to do this together to get a little more practice before moving on to working independently. When you are finished I will display the way I summarized this sentence, and you can check your answer.”


[Allow five minutes of working time, then display the following paragraph on the document camera]


"Because polar bears are vulnerable to this loss of habitat, they are—in my judgment—likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future," Kempthorne said.

Although many scientists say that human activity is directly responsible for the melting sea ice, the new polar bear protections will not change U.S. climate policy.

The U.S. classifies the polar bear as a marine mammal, which means that the bear's new threatened status will not stop oil exploration within its habitat.  Hunting of polar bears as a food source by certain native people and trade in native handicrafts made from polar bears will also continue.


Say: “Okay, this is how I summarized this sentence. Did you all get something similar? Do you have any questions before you start independent practice?”


Summary: Polar bears will continue to die because of human activity that causes melting of sea ice, loss of habitat, and being hunted for food. 


6.     Say: “Now I am going to let you summarize the rest of the article by yourself. I will leave the rules under the overhead projector so that you can remember them. I want you to go paragraph by paragraph and do exactly what we just did as a class. This will give you practice on your summarizing skills while you read independently. Make sure you are crossing out unimportant or repeated information, highlight important information, and write a topic sentence in the margin after each paragraph!”


7.     Say: “After you are done make sure you write your name on your paper and I am going to collect them and see how well you have learned to summarize! Then I am going to put some comprehension questions for you to answer under the document camera. I want you to use the piece of paper I gave you to write your answer. Just write the number, and then the answer. Don’t rewrite the question. After you are done write your name on that piece of paper also and I will collect it!”


For assessment I will use the following checklist to grade each student’s summarization skills.


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?



Comprehension Questions:

1.  Why are Polar Bears considered threatened?

2.  What is the cause of polar bears becoming endangered?

3.  Is anything happening to stop it?




Clarke, Katie. “Super Summarizers!”


Carter, Lauren. “Flying Through Summarization!”


Goins, Hillary. “Ready, Set, Summarize!”

 “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened” National Geographic Kids

 Murray, Bruce. Making Sight Words. Linus Publications. 2012. Print


Bookmark (print for each student and cut out for each student):

Click here for Edification Index