A Reading to Learn Lesson

Rationale: After students have learned how to read both accurately and fluently, children should then begin to read to learn.  The goal of reading for learning is that the child is able to fully read a text and then understand what he or she is reading.  This lesson introduces students to the strategy of summarization.  When students learn to delete trivial and redundant information in a text, they will be able to remember the important information in the end. By learning to summarize a text, students will understand what they are reading better and thus enjoy reading.


 Copy of the article “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened” for each student from National Geographic

Dry Erase board and markers

Assessment checklist for each student (teacher use)

Colored marker for each child

Lined paper for each child



1. Teacher says, “Have any of you read a story or a text, and when you finished it either your parents or a friend asked you what it was about? When you answered them, did you reread the whole thing to them, or did you just tell them the important parts?” (Students should answer important parts) “That’s correct, you leave out the unimportant details and focus on only that which is vital.  This is called a summary! When you summarize something that you read, you shorten the text that you read to show that you comprehend the text and understand the important parts of what you read.”

2. This week we have been talking about the weather, and how changes in the climate can affect other things besides the temperature. Who can remind me what climate means? (The usual weather conditions in a particular place) “That’s right! In our discussions yesterday, what did we say could be affected y climate change? (Weather, temperature, water level, animal habitats) “ Very good, lots of different things can be hurt or changed by climate change.  The one we are going to focus on today is the effect that climate change has on animals.

3. “Now that we’ve reviewed our topic, let’s talk more about summarization.   I need for every one to take out a marker and a sheet of lined paper.  We’re going to turn our paper horizontal, and then we are going to fold the paper twice, so that it has three sections.” (The teacher should demonstrate this.) “Now let’s talk about the three rules of summarization. Our first rule, which you should write in the left column, is ‘delete unimportant information or anything that is repeated information.’ (Write this on the board.)  When you delete or cross out the unimportant information or repeated information, it will help you understand what the author is trying to tell you.  Our second rule, which you will write in the second column, says that ‘it is important to find the important information.’  (Write this on the board.)  When you’re reading a text, it is helpful to underline sentences that help you remember the important things.  The third rule of summarizing is to ‘make a topic sentence.’ (Write this on the board.)  Writing topic sentences can be difficult because most of the texts that we read do not have topic sentences.  These topic sentences combine all the important information from the story or text in a sentence to summarize the passage that you have read.”

4. Now pass out copies of the article “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened” from National Geographic Kids. Then draw a basic web graphic organizer on the board. “What do you want to find out about polar bears?  When you think of polar bears what do you think of?” (Based on student answers, fill out one side of the graphic organizer).  Let’s read to find out more about polar bears!”

5. Teacher says, “Now we are going to practice summarizing with this article.  Let’s take a look at the first paragraph together.  It says, ‘Polar bears were added to the list of threatened species and will receive special protection under U.S. law. In his statement, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne noted that the decline of Arctic sea ice is the greatest threat to the bears.’ Our first sentence says, ‘Polar bears were added to the list of threatened species and will receive special protection under U.S. law.’ In this sentence, I believe that it is very important that polar bears have been added to the list of threatened species, so we are going to underline this part, and wright it under the second column.

Our second sentence says, ‘. In his statement, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne noted that the decline of Arctic sea ice is the greatest threat to the bears.’  What do you think is important in this sentence?” (Wait until someone responds that the decline of Artic sea ice is the greatest threat to the bears). “That’s right, so we will underline this and then write it in the second column. 

I don’t think the person who said this is important, so we are going to cross out ‘Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne’ and write it under the first column. 

Our final step in summarizing is to create a topic sentence for this paragraph.  In order to do this we need to take the important information and combine it into one sentence.  So our important information is that polar bears are threatened and that the decline of Artic sea ice is the biggest threat. If I were to write a topic sentence for this, it would say, ‘Polar bears have become threatened, and their biggest threat is the melting of Artic sea ice.’ 

6. Now that we know how to summarize, you are going to repeat this process for the remaining paragraphs.  When you have finished, your topic sentences should combine into a concise summary.  When you are done, please staple your article to your summary columns, and turn it in.”

Assessment: The teacher will review each of the student’s summary charts to see if they are able to successfully summarize the paragraphs.  The teacher will use the checklist below in order to see if the child is completing the work satisfactorily. 

Comprehension Questions:

What is the biggest threat to polar bears?

What practice will be stopped in the United States in order to help save the polar bears?

If nothing changed, what could have happened to the world’s polar bear population?

What does saving the polar bear depend on?



Megan Bowden. “Let’s SUMMARIZE with Sammy, the Turtle!” http://www.auburn.edu/%7Embb0018/bowdenrl.htm


National Geographic Kids. “Polar Bears Listed as Threatened.” http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/stories/animalsnature/polar-bears-threatened/


Assessment Checklist:

Student Name: ______________________________

1.     Did the student fill out the chart on his or her paper?

2.     Did the student have 10 topic sentences?

3.     Did the student remove the unimportant information?

4.     Did the student identify important parts?

5.     Did the student use the important information in his or her topic sentences?

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