Home‎ > ‎

Reading to Learn

Sliding into summarizing

Meredith Gray

Reading to Learn

Rationale: In this lesson, children will learn how to read expository texts in order to gather information. Strengthening reading comprehension while reading text for information is the next step after learning to read text fluently. In other words, children must learn to read to learn. Having students summarize expository text allows the teacher to assess student understanding of the text. It is important for students to learn how to summarize without trivial information leaving behind only important information of the text. This lesson is designed for students to practice comprehension skills and summarization without trivial details. 









                Rubric for grading summaries

                Comprehension Questions

                “Polar Bear” National Geographic Kids article




1. Say: “Today, we will work on summarization and practice how to summarize a text on Polar Bears from National Geographic Kids. Summarizing is a wonderful tool to use after reading a text. When summarizing, you only want to state the most importation information of the text and leave behind any information that is not important (trivial) or repeated information. I have picked out an interesting article that we will practice summarizing with. We will try to focus on the main idea and facts that support that idea. We will leave out unimportant information.”


2. Say: “Now, I am going to pass out a stack of papers and I would like for everyone to take one sheet. Watch me as I show the class how to fold the paper into four. First, take the paper and fold it hamburger style then fold it again hot dog style  [Do demonstration]  Your paper should be split into four sections now: [Show your own paper split up]. Okay, now it is your turn! I will be walking around if you need help.” 


3. Say: Now that everyone has folded his or her paper, let’s go over why we are folding our paper like this in the first place. We’ll be using it as a study card for the steps of making a summary. You can use this whenever you need help summarizing articles. The first step in summarization is picking out the most important details and underlining or highlighting them. The second step is finding the repeated details that are unimportant and crossing them out. The third step is to make an umbrella term for example if you had dogs, cats, and fish then listing out all of those then you have pets. Now it is your turn to try if you had orange juice, pepsi, and hot chocolate. Great! You would all just say drinks. Finally, the fourth step is organizing the information you found in step one and create a topic sentence. The main idea should be supported by the details. Now, write these steps on a page in your study card. [Ask students to recall the steps to you as you have them write the steps in their cards.] The last page of your study card will be for information that you need to remember about summarizing. For instance, summaries should always be shorter in length than the information you are summarizing.


4. Say: “Now, I am going to pass out the article. This article is about polar bears. We will summarize the first paragraph together, as a class. Have you ever wondered about what polar bears eat and how they catch their food? Have you ever asked yourself, gee I wish I knew where a polar bear lived! Does any one know what polar bears eat? Good guess! Can someone tell me what polar bears eat? Hmm interseting guess! Does anyone know where a polar bear lives? I love that answer! We are going to have to read the article to find out if these guesses are right. I am going to read through the first paragraph of our polar bear article and then we will summarize it! [Read first paragraph aloud] Now that we’ve finished reading, let’s practice summarizing. I am going to highlight things that are important and cross out things that aren’t.”


5. [Demonstration on the smartboard] Say: “We can cross out the first sentence, “Polar bears live along shoes and on sea ice in the icy cold Arctic” since it isn’t very important. We can highlight “except pregnant females many Polar bears” and “hunt seals” in the second sentence since this gives us an important piece of information we would like to know about polar bears. We can also highlight “primarily eat seals” and “rest silently at a seal’s breathing hole” in the third sentence. This gives us important details about what the polar bears eats and he catches it. We can cross out the rest of that sentence because the information just becomes repetitive. Let’s highlight the last sentence, “A polar bear may also hunt by swimming beneath the ice.” This pieces digs deeper into another way polar bears get their food.”


6. [Ask students about what they think the main idea is] “That is right! The article talks all about polar bears about what they eat! Usually the main idea is relevant to the title of the article or is mentioned a lot throughout the article. [Ask students what they think the main point is] Awesome job! The message is that polar bears hunt for their food and they normally eat seals.”


7. Say: “On the first page of your study card, summarize this main idea. The main idea is that polar bears eat seals. A supporting detail would be polar bears hunt for seals in the water.”


8. Say: “Now, let’s continue to pick out the important pieces of information from the remainder of this polar bear article. I want you to go through and read each paragraph yourself. Summarize it the best you can, highlighting the important parts and crossing out anything you think isn’t important to the main idea.”


9. [Walk around the classroom] Say: “Everyone’s study cards are looking great! Once you’ve read the entire article and have written down the main ideas along with supporting details , I want you to write a very brief summary of the article. At the bottom of the article, I would like for you to write any vocabulary words that are new and unfamiliar to you that you learned from the article. Then, write a sentence for each new word you learned. For example, let’s take a look at the word, den. Den- a wild animal’s home or habitation. So if I were trying to write a sentence with that word I would say, “Bears build a den in a warm place so they have a place to sleep in the winter.” “Now you try to complete the sentence using what you know about the word Den. If I went to visit a den in the Arctic I would find ____.” “Let’s put your knowledge to the test and try and answer these questions!” “Would you find a television in this type of den? Would I find lions sleeping in this type of den?”


Some possible vocabulary words:






Assessment: To conclude the lesson, Students will be assessed on how well they completed his or her summaries. I will use this scoring rubric to grade the summaries for correct, adequate information:


In his or her summary, did the student…


-Remove trivial information? YES/NO

-Write a topic sentence? YES/NO

-Write 3-5 good, concise sentences? YES/NO

-Select key information from the article? YES/NO

-Choose the correct main topic for this article? YES/NO

-List any new vocabulary words/definitions at the end? YES/NO



I will also ask the students a series of comprehension questions to see if they read and understood the article:

-What do Polar bears eat? (seals)

-Is a polar bear a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore? ? (Carnivore)

-How do polar bears catch their food? (Hunt-waits silently at a seals breathing hole waiting for it to come to the surface or swims to catch it)

-Which polar bears don’t hunt? (Pregnant polar bears)

-What does the mother do when spring comes along? (Protects her cubs and teaches them how to hunt)

-Where are polar bears located? (Arctic)




Adapted from: Lauren Lindsey, You have Cat to be Kitten Me… Summary!  http://laurielel12.wixsite.com/lel0026/reading-to-learn

National Geographic Kids “Polar Bears” http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/polar-bear/#polar-bear-cub-on-mom.jpg

Back to Index: