Introduce: Summarizing Informational Text Using About Trees

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Lesson Type: Introduce
Grade: 1, 2, 3
Group Size: whole class or small group
Length: 20-30 minutes
What to Do:

Materials needed:
Each student should have a copy of About Trees written by Sherry Sterling (available as a SAMPLE reproducible book)

Contents

[edit] Objective/Purpose of the lesson

  • The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the reading strategy of summarizing informational text.
  • The teacher will use explicit instruction to introduce the strategy of summarizing informational text.
  • Students will learn what the strategy is, why it is useful, and how the strategy can be used in the future.
  • The teacher will model the strategy by using a think-aloud.
  • Students will read an informational text or part of a text and practice summarizing with support from the teacher.


[edit] Helpful teaching tips for this lesson

  • Teach students about the various features of informational text (headings, bold print, table of contents, glossary, index, captions, etc.) and how we might approach the reading of informational texts differently than how we read a narrative. For example, we might choose to read sections of the book out of order, based on our purpose for reading.
  • Begin teaching the summarizing strategy using the “Leaves” section of the book About Trees.
    • Follow the steps for explicitly teaching a comprehension strategy:
      • Explain what the strategy is and why it is useful
      • Model or think aloud as you engage in the strategy’s use. You will need to do this multiple times
      • Coach students as they engage in the strategy’s use - guided practice. Release responsibility to students as they get more able.
      • Prompt students to use a strategy when is it appropriate to the task -provide independent practice
      • Encourage flexible, independent use of strategies by having students use, and then discuss, strategies they used as needed at different points in time in their reading


[edit] Introduction

Teacher states the what, why, when, and how of summarizing informational text:

“Today we are going to learn how to summarize informational text. This is a comprehension strategy that will help us understand the main ideas, or most important ideas, that the author is trying to tell us. We want to remember and be able to use these important ideas in the future.”

[edit] Activities

[edit] Teaching the comprehension strategy using a Think Aloud

  • Begin modeling by reading the first paragraph under the heading “Leaves” from About Trees. The think aloud is a way to show students what you do as you read to summarize informational text. Show them how you think about what the paragraph or section is about as you are reading, how you decide what details (if any) are important to explain the main idea, and how you think about what the author is trying to tell you.

[edit] Think Aloud example for “Leaves” from About Trees

“I’m going to show you what I do when I summarize the information in a paragraph. This is something you will do on your own to help you remember the most important ideas that the author is trying to tell you. I want you to be able to use this information related to the main ideas in the future when I ask you to write about what you learned.”
I am going to read this section of the book (students also have a copy) about leaves to you. I am going to show you how I think about what the author is trying to tell me as I read.


  • Read the first paragraph of the section “Leaves” aloud and say to students,
“I think the author wants me to understand that leaves help trees grow. I think that is the most important point, or main idea of this paragraph. An important detail to help explain this is that the chlorophyll in leaves help trees grow by turning sunlight into food.”

The first section was about how:

  • Leaves help trees grow.
  • Chlorophyll in leaves help trees grow by turning sunlight into food.
  • Chlorophyll gives leaves their green color.
  • It might be helpful to use an overhead, white board, chart paper, or graphic organizer to show students how you take notes about the important points as you model how to find the main idea.
  • Read the next paragraph aloud as you did with the first paragraph and model your thinking:
“I see two words in bold print in this paragraph. I think the author wants me to understand what the words deciduous and conifer mean, but the main idea is that there are many different kinds of leaves and trees. The pictures and captions to the right of the paragraph help me better understand the different kinds of leaves.


The second paragraph told us that:

  • There are many different kinds of leaves and trees.
  • Deciduous trees have wide, thin leaves.
  • Conifers have needle like leaves.
  • Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and conifers do not.
  • Ask students to individually or with a partner, practice reading the last paragraph and find the most important idea that the author is trying to tell us about leaves. It is important to give students time to practice while you provide support and scaffolding. This will also help determine whether students need more modeling.
  • After students have a chance to practice with the last paragraph, bring all of the students back together to discuss what they thought the main idea was. If students talk about all the different colors that leaves can turn, you might use this as a time to explain that the author included that information to make the paragraph more interesting and to help you understand it better, but it isn’t important to remember every single detail, just the most important points. It seems most important to understand that leaves change colors when they stop making chlorophyll.

The third paragraph explains how:

  • The leaves of deciduous trees change colors in the fall.
  • Leaves can turn yellow, orange, brown when they stop making chlorophyll.


  • As a whole group you would now model how you would determine which statements below best explain what this section was about and how they could use these statements to write a summary about this section of the book later.

( Paragraph 1) This paragraph was about how:

  • Leaves help trees grow.
  • Chlorophyll in leaves help trees grow by turning sunlight into food.
  • Chlorophyll gives leaves their green color.


(Paragraph 2) This paragraph told us that:

  • There are many different kinds of leaves and trees.
  • Deciduous trees have wide, thin leaves.
  • Conifers have needle like leaves.
  • Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and conifers do not.

(Paragraph 3) This paragraph was about:

  • The leaves of deciduous trees change colors in the fall.
  • Leaves can turn yellow, orange, brown when they stop making chlorophyll.


  • As students get better at determining the main ideas of informational text, they can read longer sections of text and summarize the main points of an entire selection in just 3 or 4 sentences.
  • Students will need many opportunities to practice the strategy and receive additional modeling from the teacher as they work on this strategy.


[edit] Assessment for future lessons

  • Students complete written summaries
  • Students discuss their written summaries with a partner or group of students.


[edit] Closure

  • Remind students why we summarize, how it will help us, and how we can use this strategy when we read to better understand the main ideas the author is trying to tell us.

[edit] Possible next steps or extensions to this lesson

  • Do your students need this strategy modeled again?
  • Do your students need more time to practice this strategy with more support from you?
  • A lesson to model for students some examples of good and not so good summaries, those that concisely state the most important ideas and those that are too general or too specific.
  • A lesson to model how students can use the written summary as a study strategy (Taylor, 1995).


[edit] Professional learning community activity

  • Work on summarizing informational text with your students over several weeks and reflect on the lessons in a journal—bring these reflections to your PLC meeting to share and discuss with your colleagues.
  • Take a turn video taping yourself teaching this lesson. Choose a clip to share at a PLC meeting and ask your colleagues for feedback on that part of the lesson.
  • Bring copies of your student summaries to a PLC meeting to evaluate, discuss, and get suggestions from your colleagues about where to go next with your instruction.

[edit] Research that supports this lesson

Duffy, G. (2003). Explaining reading: A resource for teaching concepts, skills, and strategies. New York: Guilford.

Duke, N. K., & Benneett-Armistead, S. (2003). Reading and writing in the primary grades: Research-based practices.New York: Scholastic.

Nolte, R. Y., & Singer, H. (1985). Active comprehension: Teaching a process of reading comprehension and its effects on reading achievement. Reading Teacher, 39(1), 24-31.

Pressley, M. (2002). Reading instruction that works: The case for balanced teaching, second edition. New York: Guilford.

Stahl, K. A. D (2004). Proof, practice, and promise: Comprehension strategy instruction in the primary grades. The Reading Teacher, 57, 598-609.

Taylor, B. M., & Frye, B. J. (1992). Comprehension strategy instruction in the intermediate grades. Reading Research and Instruction, 32(1), 39-48.

Taylor, Harris, Pearson, and Garcia (1995). Reading Difficulties: Instruction and Assessment (2nd. ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.


This lesson was created by:
Minnesota Center for Reading Research
Michelle Chein
Barbara M. Taylor