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Learning Experience/Unit

Summarizing Strategies


English Language Arts (2005), English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)

Grade Levels

Intermediate, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


  • A rubric will be used to assess students' notes and summaries.
  • A second rubric will be used to assess student responses on the blog.
  • Both rubrics are attached.
  • blog rubric
  • summary rubric

Learning Context/ Introduction

A major stumbling block for many middle school students is their ability to understand what they are reading. It may be due to low ability, lack of motivation, or a combination of these and other factors. Summarizing is one of the most effective reading comprehension strategies to help students understand what they read.


  • summary
  • summarize
  • condense
  • essential
  • retelling
  • blog
  • thread
  • portal


The learning experience was planned for four (4) days. Each class was 40-minutes in length. This did not include the instruction of skills leading up to the summarizing lessons. Students took work home when they missed class or did not complete their work in class.

Essential Question

How might summarizing strategies improve the understanding of non-fiction text?

Instructional/Environment Modifications

Student reading levels were considered in choosing text. It was important that the text be at their independent reading level while learning different summarizing strategies.

The use of the laptop cart in the classroom allowed students to work at their own pace to move through assignments.


Prior to starting the summarizing lessons, the students reviewed, learned, and practiced identifying main ideas, paragraph writing, and oral re-telling. They were also introduced to our classroom blog and had the opportunity to navigate the site and learn how to add entries and comments. Blogging rules were explained and posted. Students were then given the story "Secrets of a Civil War Spy" or "Horse Sense" depending on their reading level. They were instructed to read it and write a summary about it. The summary writing rubric was used to assess the work.


  1. Introduce summarizing and blogging vocabulary by partners looking up a word in the dictionary. As a whole group, come up with common definitions for the words. Students add the words to their own word lists. Reinforce the connection between summary (brief statement of main ideas) and students' prior learning of identifying main ideas.
  2. Students are directed to respond to my first blog entry. They are also given time to comment on other students' entries. Most students have internet access at home so they could read and respond from home.

Entry #1 : YIKES! Mrs. Otis says we have to summarize. What is that and what will it get me?


  1. Students read "Writing to the Roosevelts" silently. As a whole group, review the text, paragraph-by-paragraph, and note main ideas of each. After identifying the main idea of each paragraph ask students - "What is the article about?" Brainstorm a list of the students' responses. Direct their attention to the first and last paragraphs if needed. From the discussion and list construct a topic sentence that is general enough to cover the whole article. Then condense the other paragraphs' main ideas into sentences by combining similar or related ideas. When all main ideas have been included construct a concluding sentence that restates the topic sentence. This paragraph is a summary of the text.
  2. Students are given "Dandelions for Dinner" or "Tony Hawk" to read. Students need to take notes by identifying the main ideas of each paragraph and write a summary of the story using the steps that were modeled for the group summary.
  3. Students are instructed to respond to my second blog entry. They are also given time to read and comment on other student's entries.

Entry #2: What do you think is the most difficult thing about summarizing? Why? If you don't think anything is difficult, what advice could you give someone else to make summarizing easier for them?


  1. Distribute the article "Collared!" As a whole group, discuss previewing skills. Discuss the title, subtitle, information box, captions, and headings. I asked, "Why would an author have these parts of an article and what can you learn from them?"
  2. Students silently read the article. As a whole group, using the introduction and headings, note the main idea of each section. From the notes, write a summary together using the same procedure for summary writing from day 2.
  3. Students are given either, "Behind Barbed Wire" or "Tony Hawk: Chairman of the Board." They were instructed to read it, take notes using the title, headings, captions, etc., and write a summary of the article.
  4. Students are instructed to respond to my third entry and comment on other entries.

Entry #3: It takes too much time to read everything on the page. Why is it there anyway?


  1. Discussed how to use the 5 Ws (what, who, why, when and where) to think about a text. Students are given "A Popular Sport" to read independently. Together list the 5 Ws and created an oral summary from the notes by turning each W into a sentence. Discuss how to make the paragraph make sense by combining information and thinking about what the reader needs to know first, second, etc.
  2. Students are given either, "Golden Toads and Tiny Frogs" or "Preventing Forest Fires" to read, take notes using the 5 Ws, and write a summary on the text.
  3. Students are instructed to respond to the 4th entry and comment on other entries.

Entry #4 : You have been learning and practicing different ways to think about text to help you summarize. The three ways we have practiced are:

  1. Find main ideas of each paragraph
  2. Use title, information boxes, captions, headings, etc. to note the main ideas
  3. Using the 5W's to identify the most important information.
  • Which way is the easiest for you? Why?
  • Which way is the hardest for you? Why?

Reflections and Feedback

Students were very motivated to learn about blogging and to actually participate in a classroom blog. These students didn't have any previous knowledge of blogs. Students worked diligently through the reading and writing so that they would have time for blogging. I had to be careful to plan teaching time, independent time, and blogging time to consistently focus on my goal of improving reading comprehension.

I was very pleased with the blog entries and comments. Students took time to think about and respond logically to entries. It demonstrated to me their level of understanding of the strategies. Therefore, I did not use the blog rubric as a graded assessment but rather as a guideline that we regularly reviewed as we blogged. Any problems with blog entries were handled directly to the student in my responses to their entries.

Student Work

Attached are samples of student work and a sample of our blog

  • student work
  • blog sample
  • sample graded rubric
  • Related Resource

    • Internet access for all students
    • LCD projector and teacher laptop
    • Texts (list attached)
  • Texts.cwk (WP).pdf
  • Website(s)

    Free Blog Site

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