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Short and Simple – with big meaning!

Reading to Learn

By: Lindsay B.

Rationale:  Comprehension is the main purpose of reading and it is important for students to remember what they have read.  This lesson will teach students how to shorten the text of what they’ve read by summarizing.  Students will learn to independently find the main idea within a text to further understand the message by working in groups and finding important facts in articles.


2 National Geographic articles (copies of each article for entire class), dry erase board and marker, paper, pencils


1. Explain to students: “It is important to understand what you are reading.  Sometimes what you are reading is very long and you need to summarize what’s important.  When summarizing you need to pick out the main idea, but the small details are not as important.  Sometimes things are repeated in the story.  If something is said more than once it does not need to be in a summary more than once.”

2. Display a message on the board: “I went to the store in my rain boots and scarf to buy a pizza.  I couldn’t decide if I should get pepperoni or cheese pizza, but I ended up buying cheese. I checked out and it only cost two dollars.”
“I’m going to circle the important parts of the paragraph.  This paragraph is about buying pizza, so it doesn’t really matter what I wore to the store - I won’t circle that part- but it is important that I went to the store to buy pizza.  It’s also important that I decided to buy cheese and that it costs two dollars.”  My summarized sentence is going to say, “I went to the store and bought a cheese pizza for two dollars.”   We’re going to practice summarizing our own sentences just like this.

3. We’re going to learn the meaning of ‘sediment’:

            1. Sediment is matter that settles to the bottom of a liquid.  Water is not sediment.
            2. Sand that settles to the bottom of the ocean is sediment.
            3. Rocks that fall to the bottom of a water bottle are considered sediment.
            4. During earthquakes sand and rocks become sediment.

4. I’m going to give you an article to read about crabs and how they help the environment by cleaning the ocean.  I want you to read to yourself and start thinking about the main idea of the article.  Why is the writer writing this?

5. Now I want you to read the article again and circle the important pieces of information from the article to help you summarize the article.  Only tell me the important things or the main idea, which means the small details are not important. 

6.  You’re going to write a summary using only the information you have circled.  Good writers add detail to their writing, but we do not need the small details in a summary.

7.  The students will break into groups of five.  They will read their summaries to the rest of their group and discuss how their summaries are similar or different.  We will then come together as a class to discuss why they chose the phrases as important.

8. I will assess the students’ knowledge by giving them an article about frogs and the way they make sounds and live.  They will write a paragraph on what they learned from the article.  I will ask the following comprehension questions:
“Why do you think the author wrote the article?”
“What did you find most surprising about these frogs?”


"Crabs Clean Up -- National Geographic Kids." Kids' Games, Animals, Photos, Stories, and More -- National Geographic Kids. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <>.

"Spring Peepers -- National Geographic Kids." Kids' Games, Animals, Photos, Stories, and More -- National Geographic Kids. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <>.

“Keep it Short!” by Jenn Kanute

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