Teaching Summarizing with Reading Activities for Kids

Teaching summarizing scaffolds from grades three to five. Third graders simply retell the story. Fourth graders summarize the details. Using the tried-and-true “somebody wanted but then so” makes it easier. By fifth grade, students must consider the story arc, including the characters’ responses and motivations.

Teaching Summarizing

Ms. Sneed Gets Ready for Teaching Summarizing

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed sat at her desk. “Time to ramp it up for teaching summarizing,” she said out loud.

She typed “Common Core State Standards” then clicked to view the ELA standards. She scrolled and clicked to view the second literature standard. As her mentor taught her, Ms. Sneed looked at the standards one grade level below, on level, and one level above. That way, she could see what her students should already know, what she needed to teach them, and where they were going.

Third Grade

RL.3.2 – Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

“Hmm, third graders focus on retelling the story,” she thought. “They simply explain the beginning, middle, and end in their own words.”

Fourth Grade

RL.4.2 – Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

“Fourth graders summarize,” Ms. Sneed told herself. “They retell only key details, or elements, of the story: character(s), setting and plot.” She remembered a teacher friend talking about somebody wanted but then so. Those words helped kids with literary elements.

Fifth Grade

RL.5.2 – Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

Ms. Sneed pondered this. Fifth graders also summarize. She noted that they must discuss how the character responds to challenges. “By fifth grade, students should be able to identify the main character, his or her goal or motivation, the obstacle(s) that get in the way, steps he or she takes to achieve the goal and/or overcome the obstacle, and the outcome or resolution,” she thought.

Ms. Sneed Searches for Resources

As she often did, Ms. Sneed let her fingers do the walking. First, she clicked around on Pinterest. Then she headed over to Teachers pay Teachers.

One summarizing unit featured a story arc. It used somebody wanted but then so. And it also listed story elements. Yes. This would take her students far beyond retelling. As a matter of fact, they’d be accomplishing the fifth grade standard – with some scaffolding.

Teaching Summarizing 2

Ms. Sneed Teaches Summarizing

Clap-clap-clap. The sound called Ms. Sneed’s students to their seats. “Okay, everybody, today we’ll learn about summarizing.”

“We learned that last year,” said a girl with classes.

“Correction,” laughed Ms. Sneed. “Today we’ll learn more about summarizing.”

She projected a PowerPoint presentation on the screen. “First, we’ll read a short fable.”

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Teaching Summarizing

When they finished reading, a table appeared on the screen. As the class discussed, story elements and events were filled in.

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Ms. Sneed showed her class how to take the information and write a brief summary.

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“This is pretty good,” said Ms. Sneed. “But let’s look at some ways to make it even better.” Using the presentation, Ms. Sneed modeled how to combine sentences, use transitional phrases, and add details to help the audience understand better.

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The girl with the glasses grinned. “Okay, I guess I learned a few new tricks,” she said.

Ms. Sneed smiled back. “Hearing that makes me enjoy teaching summarizing even more,” she said.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.


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