Suggested Time Allotment: 5 class periods of 44 minutes each in order to include the optional activities or 4 class periods excluding the optional activities

Group Size: Any

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will be able to write a summary including all important details from the initial paragraph using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.


Guiding Question:

Explain the purpose of learning how to summarize a paragraph to your students. You should focus your rationale on the idea that it helps the reader to really think about and remember what the writer wants to communicate.


Pencil (each student)

• Notebook paper (each student)

• Newspaer articles with paragraphs (copy for each student)

• Chart paper or butcher paper



  1. Describe the below strategy and make a list of the steps using the overhead or whiteboard. Ask students to write the steps and what to do in each step in their personal notes. The critical steps of the paragraph summarization strategy include:
Step 1: Identify the topic

Say to yourself, “What is this paragraph about? This paragraph is about ______(say the topic one word or a few words)____.”

Step 2: Look for key words in the first sentence and the last sentence.

Look for key words or synonyms for key words that are repeated throughout the paragraph. The key words and the first and last sentence usually focus on the topic.

Step 3: Identify the main idea

Say to yourself, “What does this paragraph say about _____ (say the topic in one word or a few words) _____. It tells that ________ (state what you think is the main idea ________.”

To identify the main idea, look at all the statements about the topic and decide what you think the main idea is. Remember to look at the first and last sentence for cues for the main idea.


Ignore unnecessary or trivial information

(For example, who cares if the house is yellow, if the rest of the details are about firemen rescuing the family from the burning house?)

Create one category name for lists of items

(For example, substitute the word “family” for the words: mom, dad, brother, sister, cousin, etc.)

Substitute an overall term for components of an action

(For example, substitute, “They finally went to school.” For “They went down the walk and got in the car, They drove down Elm Street and made a right on Oak Street, They could see the school ahead of them. The car pulled up to the front of the building, and they scrambled out of the car. They were at school at last.”

Step 4: Prove it!

To prove your main idea, identify two details that support or prove that your main idea is correct.

Step 5: Say it in your own words

When you decide you have the main idea, use your own words to restate the main idea without changing the meaning. It will help you check your understanding and keep you from simply copying or plagiarizing.


  1. After describing the paragraph summarization strategy, model how the strategy should be used on a well written paragraph. Give each student the text in which you’ll be modeling from so they are able to visually see it. Say each step of the strategy as you model it, so students see where you are as you start and complete each step. Think aloud as you model and explain how you made each decision.

  1. Using another paragraph, model the strategy again, and this time begin to ask students to participate in following the steps of paragraph summarizing.

  1. (Optional) Now that students see how the strategy works, instruct students to partner with another student and have them practice describing the steps to one another as you walk around the class and listen to their practice. Tell them to refer to their notes to help them describe each step.
  2. (Optional) After the partner practice, move into a group review and ask students questions about the purpose of each step of the strategy. The goal of this activity is to make sure each student understands each step of the strategy and how to use it.

  1. Now, allow students the opportunity to choose a paragraph from the newspaper article used above to summarize. Students need to write out their steps 1-5 with their responses. Encourage students to refer to their notes and to follow the steps. If students need help pull them into small groups and/or review concepts individually. Collect these papers for assessment purposes.
  2. After the strategy has been presented, post the steps of the strategy on chart paper in a place in the classroom where you and the students can refer to it when needed. Several times each week identify a critical paragraph and model how you would summarize it. As a class, work through several paragraphs of critical information and summarize each one.
  3. Make reading assignments that require students to summarize paragraphs to each other or on paper. Assignments of five or six paragraphs are about the right length for this type of assignment. As students summarize paragraphs, walk around the room and see which students have difficulty with paragraph summarization.



The teacher can informally assess the students when they are in their small groups explaining the steps to one another. The teacher can also informally assess the students during large group class discussion of the steps. Next, the teacher can assess the students formally by collecting their notes to see if they took notes and appear to understand the steps through their notes. The teacher can also collect students work when they are asked to summarize a paragraph and analyze it for completeness and understanding. Teachers can also use the summary scoring guide to score students' written summaries.

Benchmark or Standards:
Oregon Common Curriculum Goals and Benchmarks

CCG: Listen to and Read Informational and Narrative Text:
Listen to, read, and understand a wide variety of informational and narrative text across the subject areas at school and on own, applying comprehension strategies as needed.

  • EL.08.RE.06 Understand and draw upon a variety of comprehension strategies as needed--re-reading, self-correcting, summarizing, class and group discussions, generating and responding to essential questions, making predictions, and comparing information from several sources.
CCG: Informational Text: Demonstrate General Understanding:
Demonstrate general understanding of grade-level informational text across the subject areas.

  • EL.08.RE.17 Identify and/or summarize sequence of events, main ideas, facts, supporting details, and opinions in informational and practical selections.
  • EL.08.RE.18 Clarify understanding of informational texts by creating detailed outlines, graphic organizers, diagrams, logical notes, or summaries.
CCG: Conventions: Handwriting:
Demonstrate knowledge of spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and penmanship across the subject areas.

  • EL.08.WR.23
    Write legibly.
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