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Lesson Plan

Scaling Back to Essentials: Scaffolding Summarization With Fishbone Mapping

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Scaling Back to Essentials: Scaffolding Summarization With Fishbone Mapping

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Kathleen Donovan-Snavely

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania


International Literacy Association



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



What's important and what's not? Students in grades 6 to 8 explore this question in pairs and cooperative groups as they complete fishbone maps that highlight the main ideas and relevant details from a cause-effect text. The lesson includes explicit instruction on how to use repeated references as a strategy for determining important information in a text and how to generalize main ideas from related details. Modeling and guided practice prepare students to use the strategies independently. As a final exercise, students write summaries of a content area text.

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Fishbone map template: Students use this helpful handout to identify main ideas that are important to the author of the article.

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Friend, R. (2001). Teaching summarization as a content area reading strategy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 44, 320329.

  • Summarization, as an organizational study strategy, promotes "deep processing." As students identify links to prior knowledge and connections to main ideas in text, they enhance comprehension and retention.

  • A summary has four defining features: (a) it is short; (b) it tells what is most important to the author; (c) it is written "in your own words;" and (d) it states the information "you need to study."

  • Teachers can promote student proficiency in summarization by providing direct instruction about two cues to text-based importance: repeated references in text structure and generalization from inferences.

  • Semantic maps make explicit the relationships among main ideas and supporting details, as well as the overarching generalization that frames a text.

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