EL Support Lesson

Summarizing Nonfiction

Use this lesson to help your ELs summarize information from a text and use context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. This lesson can be a stand-alone lesson or used as support to the Day 4 section of the Star Unit lesson.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theStar UnitLesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theStar UnitLesson plan.

Students will be able to summarize information from research about constellations.


Students will be able to summarize a Greek myth about a constellation with new vocabulary using graphic organizers.

(5 minutes)
Context Clues TableConstellation LegendsLanguage Frames: Nonfiction SummaryTeach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceVocabulary Cards: Summarizing NonfictionGlossary: Summarizing Nonfiction
  • Ask students to put a thumb up for "yes," thumb down for "no," and thumb sideways for "maybe" to the following questions: "Have you ever looked up at the night sky? How big are stars in the sky?"
  • Project a picture of a constellation and draw a concept web on the board with the word "constellation" in the middle. Distribute sticky notes to each student and ask them to write down everything they know about what they see in the picture.
  • Ask students to share their responses and place their sticky notes on the concept web if they contribute to an understanding of a constellation. Ask follow-up questions to understand what they know about constellations. For example, "What are the bright objects? When can you see the stars? Do they move in the sky?"
  • Define Greek mythsAnd explain that in the past Greeks would look at the stars and create stories about the star groupings, or Constellations. Tell them they'll summarize what they know about a Greek myth about the constellation Cassiopeia.
(12 minutes)
  • Distribute and display the worksheet Cassiopeia, the Queen Always Visible in the Northern Sky, and explain that it’s an example of a Greek myth about Queen Cassiopeia who made the gods so mad they turned her into a constellation. Read through the text, and ask students to copy all your teacher model markings on their own papers.
  • Think aloud all the difficult parts in the text (e.g., Andromeda, Cetus, sacrifice, sea nymphs, vanity, boastful) and call on students to share aloud their choices. Give an example of how to use the context clues to determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word. For example, in the phrase “Poseidon, the god of the sea,” the context clue, “god of the sea,” tells the reader Poseidon is the god of the sea.
  • Point out that some of the difficult words in the text are actually character names. Guide students to identify and circle all character names to support their understanding of the story.
  • Write the key words on the board and tell students they'll look for the meanings of the words within the text. Distribute the Context Clues Table worksheet. Show students how to place the word Vain, the clues "more beautiful than the sea nymph," "brag," and their locations on the chart.
  • Circle the words SacrificeAnd GodsOn the board and ask the students to work in pairs to find the meanings of the words using the context clues. Allow two students to share their responses and correct any misconceptions with the vocabulary cards.
  • Review the remaining key terms with the Vocabulary Cards worksheet. After each new definition, ask a student to reword the definition. Check for student understanding throughout by asking them for thumbs up or thumbs down if they understand the meaning.
  • Explain that focusing on the context clues to find the meaning of unfamiliar words can help them understand the text enough to summarize it.
(5 minutes)
  • Tell students they will now read the worksheet Cassiopeia, the Queen Always Visible in the Northern Sky to gather an understanding of the Greek myth and how the Greeks proposed the constellation was created.
  • Read the text aloud and ask students to choral read the text with you. Briefly give a summarization of what you've read and ask students to use their thumbs up or down if they agree or disagree with the summary.
(7 minutes)
  • Display the Language Frames: Nonfiction Summary worksheet and read through the frames aloud.
  • Think aloud completing the relevant frames with information familiar to your ELs, and then model with information about the Cassiopeia text. For example, "Cassiopeia WasA queen that made the gods angry." Note that you changed the word "is" to "was" because you used past tense. Tell students they may need to pay attention to verb tense and subject-verb agreement when using the sentence frames.
  • Distribute sticky notes to each student and allow them to turn to their elbow partners to complete a sentence frame of their choice using their new vocabulary words. Ask them to tell their partner their sentence orally, and then write it on their sticky note.
  • Choose students with varied sentence frames to share them aloud. Model aloud the sentence frames students didn't choose so they'll have exposure to them. Continue to use the vocabulary words on the board for your sentence frame examples.
  • Ask follow-up questions, such as, "Are there different vocabulary words you can use with this sentence frame? Does anyone have a different subject for the sentence frame?"


  • Have students draw pictures about the key terms on their vocabulary cards. Allow ELs to use the Vocabulary Cards and the Glossary in their discussions about the vocabulary terms and while creating their sentence frames.
  • Ask them to write the meanings of the new vocabulary words in their home language (L1), if literate in that language, next to English version on the vocabulary cards.
  • Preteach the difference between the words "is" and "was" in varied sentences.
  • Give them the option to use either their home language (L1) if literate in that language, or their new language (L2), in all their discussions.


  • Have students draw their own concept map and add details about constellations throughout the lesson.
  • Ask ELs to write out their responses during the sentence and discourse focus level.
  • Allow them to create their own summary paragraph and share their paragraphs first as a support to beginning and intermediate ELs.
(6 minutes)
  • Ask students to reread the worksheet Cassiopeia, the Queen Always Visible in the Northern Sky.
  • Distribute the Language Frames: Nonfiction Summary worksheet. Tell students to read the paragraph frame and fill in the blanks aloud to their partners. Then, have them write their answers on the frame on their own.
  • Allow one or two students to read their completed paragraph frames. Edit the paragraphs aloud and write the changes on the board as necessary.
(5 minutes)
  • Refer to the constellations concept web on the board and ask students to share one more fact in pairs about constellations in general (e.g., Cassiopeia constellation; Greeks liked to make stories based on constellations; a group of stars). Then, choose students to share aloud.
  • Choose a student to explain why it is important to find the meanings of the unknown key words before they summarize a text. Have students give thumbs up if they agree or thumbs sideways if they want to add to the student’s explanation. Give students the opportunity to add to the explanation.
  • Tell students when they read nonfiction texts they'll encounter new words, but now they'll have strategies to help them understand the text by using the context clues.

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