Picture Books to Teach Summarizing in the Classroom
Teach summarizing in your classroom with this collection of picture books as inspiration. Use them to teach how to find the most relevant parts of a story and dismiss what is irrelevant.
Why Use Picture Books to Teach Summarizing?
Summarizing is like retelling, but requires determining the most important details of a text. It helps your students determine the central idea and supporting details of what they are reading.
Using picture books to teach summarizing means you and your students can work together to find the most important parts of a book. You can model how to identify key information and pick out important details helping your students omit irrelevant information from their summary.
It will also help if your students are confident in retelling and sequencing before focusing on teaching summarizing.
Help your students identify the most important parts of a story by using this prompt to teach summarizing:
Somebody: Who is the main character?
Wanted: What did the main character want?
But: What was the problem?
So: How was the problem solved?
Then: How did the story end?
Benefits of Summarizing
- Summarizing improves memory for what has been read.
- Identifying the most important details, along with supporting details.
- Reducing a large selection of text to improve understanding.
- Summarizing is important in different academic areas.
Questions to Use with Books to Teach Summarizing
- What is the main idea of the text/story?
- What information friend the text is important to support the main idea?
- What information from the text is irrelevant?
- What happened after [event]?
- What was the first/last thing that happened in the story?
- What does [character] do during different parts of the story?
- What actions and reactions took place in the story?
- What are the most important parts of the story?
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Picture Books to Teach Summarizing
Any fiction picture book can be used as a mentor text to teach summarizing, but here are some ideas.
111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl by Rina Singh
Sundar Paliwal valued gender equality, but his village only celebrated the birth of boys. He resigned from his job and became the leader of Piplantri. Sundar persuaded the villagers to celebrate the birth of girls by planting 111 trees. Over time, these trees provided food, water and the opportunity for women to earn their own living.
A Day's Work by Eve Bunting
Francisco helps his grandfather find work by lying that he is a gardener. They are hired by Ben to work on his garden but they pull out all the plants instead of the weeds. Abuelo returns the next day to complete the job correctly before he takes his wages.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê
A young boy and his grandfather lack a common language and struggle to communicate, leading to confusing, frustrating and silent meetings. When they discover their love of art they communicate with each other through art rather than words.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson
A boy’s life changes for the worse when Jeremy Ross moves to town. He is Jeremy’s enemy. Dad’s advice is to make an enemy pie, but it will only work if he spends the whole day with his enemy. They end up having so much fun the boy doesn’t need the pie.
Flotsam by David Wiesner
A young boy discovers an old camera on a beach. When he develops the images, they are not at all what he expected. He discovers an underwater world he didn’t know existed. One photo shows a child holding a photo of another child, who is also holding a photo of a child and so on. They all returned the camera to the beach for someone else to discover its magic.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
In a Peshawar refugee camp, both Lina and Feroza find a matching sandal. They build a friendship and share the sandals, wearing them on alternate days. Lina and her mother are chosen to emigrate to America and gives the sandal to Feroza. But Feroza hands it back telling Lina they will share the sandals again one day.
The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers
Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko
Born in Canada, Joni Mitchell expressed her creativity through music and painting as a child, despite suffering from polio. She sang her songs in Toronto and then moved to New York and then California. She inspired a generation with her deeply emotional and personal songs. Joni Mitchell wrote a famous song about Woodstock because she was unable to attend.
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
Monsoon Afternoon by Kashmira Sheth
A boy asks everyone in his family to join him outside in the Indian monsoon rain. Everyone is busy, except for the boy’s Dadaji, grandfather. They enjoy the afternoon, noticing how the environment has changed once the rain stops. The ants have vanished; the peacocks are dancing, and the banyan leaves shine. Promotes family and cultural traditions and intergenerational relationships.
The Napping House by Audrey & Don Wood
Entering the napping house we see grandma, a child, a dog, the pet cat and a mouse all asleep on a bed. That is until a wakeful flea bites the mouse and starts a chain reaction that wakes everyone up.
Use to teach cause and effect, recurrent patterns and sequencing.
On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna
It's pouring with rain and a girl wants to play computer games. She rushes outside when he mother tries to take the game off her, only for her to drop it in a freezing cold pond. Despite her disappointment, she explores the surrounding nature feeling like “the whole world seemed brand new as if it had been created right in front of me.”
Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey
Pig the Pug was greedy and selfish in almost every way. He lived in a home with his dachshund friend, Trevor, but selfish Pig refused to share his toys with Trevor. Pig soon learns a painful lesson when he gets his just deserts.
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall
The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker
In 1958, the Chinese government ordered the eradication of all sparrows. They were blamed for destroying the nation's wheat crop, but their disappearance brought on a plague of locust. A determined Ming Li, rescues seven sparrows. She cares for, and then frees the birds, saving her village from a devastating famine.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
In the late 1800s, Horace Pippin drew anyone around him. He filled notebooks while fighting during WWI, but when he was shot, he could not create his art. Through practice and patience, Horace regained the use of his arm and started creating art again.
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed A City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins
Over 100 years ago, Katherine Olivia Sessions started a movement to transform the desert town of San Diego into a garden-filled oasis. Today, her parks and garden can still be found all over this green city. This biography reflects on the ideas of following your dreams and staying strong in the face of adversity.
Tuesday by David Wiesner
A small fish wearing a hat admits “this is not my hat”. He stole it from a big fish. A fish who is soon on the hunt for his hat and the dishonest fish. The fish, sure it will get away with the crime, is unaware that the big fish is searching for his hat. The last we hear of the little fish is him swimming into the reeds with the big fish following behind.
The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Yim Bridges
The women in Noot’s Thai village paint traditional umbrellas. She joins in this tradition, but she adds her own ideas to the umbrellas. Her family depends on the money and they cannot sell her unique designs. When the king arrives, Noot’s umbrellas catch his eye, and he crowns her the umbrella queen.
The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Follow Jane Goodall as she becomes the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees and how she has dedicated her life to save them from extinction. Jane Goodall is also an environmentalist, conservationist and humanitarian.
The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi
A mother rabbit carries her young bunny home on a dark night. The little bunny observes people talking on the telephone, cooking, having a party, closing shops and saying goodbye. After her father tucks her into bed the bunny falls asleep wondering about her neighbours.
We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
A boy named Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next to an old people’s home. His favourite resident is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper. When Wilfrid finds out she has lost her memory he goes on a journey to discover what memories are so he can help Miss Nancy find hers.
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Do you have any favourite books to teach summarizing with your students? Let me know.
Below are a few videos you may find useful for yourself or to show your students.