4th Grade - Summarizing Spoken Language

Summarizing spoken language
Summarize major ideas and supporting evidence presented in spoken messages and formal presentations.
The ability to summarize the main ideas and supporting evidence, or details, of oral communications.

Sample Problems


What is a summary? (a synopsis or review of a text – it is short and brief)


How do you summarize? (you identify the main ideas and topics of the text and restate them using as few words as possible)


What are major ideas? (the major thoughts presented in a text – the repeated concepts that stand out)


What are details? (facts, small bits of information, ideas, specific characteristics, etc.)


What is evidence? (proof, justification, facts, etc.)

Learning Tips


Use a Tree Map diagram to organize the structure of a formal presentation, such as a historical presidential speech or a newscast (you can find many of these online, or watch one on television). Write the title of the topic (sometimes the overall main idea or point to be proved) on the top line. Then write the major ideas for each of the main points addressed on the lines below. You can just use keywords in a graphic organizer like this – you don’t have to use complete sentences. Below each major idea, write the evidence or proof that supports that major idea. Each branch then represents the major ideas and evidence for a paragraph. This is just one way to use a Tree Map – try to find other ways that meet your needs!


Here’s a challenge: practice summarizing your favorite speeches, videos, or television episodes or movies in five (5) sentences or less!



I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He spoke of segregation, racism, prejudice and discrimination. He started many sentences with the words, “I have a dream…” and finished them with hopes of a fair world where people are treated equally. He ended the speech with the “old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” This was one of his many influential speeches given, and the most well-known.

Television show:

Spongebob Squarepants – “Texas”

One day while playing, Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick the starfish didn’t know what Texas was and this made Sandy the squirrel sad and homesick. Spongebob and Patrick tried everything they could to cheer Sandy up, but Sandy was still sad and sang a song about Texas and how much she loved and missed her homeland. Spongebob and Patrick took what they learned from the song and threw a surprise party for Sandy with a Texas theme to cheer her up. When Sandy finally arrived at the party and saw the Texas theme was completely wrong, she laughed so hard she cried! Her friends thought she was still very sad until Sandy said, “Home is where you’re surrounded by other critters that care ‘bout ya,” which is when Sandy realized she was home in Bikini Bottom all along.


Read the text from a speech of your choice with two different colored pens or highlighters handy. You can find famous written and movie speeches at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/. Underline or highlight the major ideas of the speech with one color, and the evidence stated with another color. The more texts you practice this skill on, the more you will see patterns!


Ask your child questions that require an opinion (or major idea). Have them write down their response in a complete sentence. Then ask them why they believe or feel what they do. Have them write these reasons, or evidence, down beneath their initial opinion in bullet points. An example:

Question: What is the best sport to watch?

Answer: I think football is the best sport to watch.

  • Football is full of action and excitement.

  • There are American traditions rooted in the sport.

  • It is fun to pick a favorite team to root for.

  • You can learn a lot about the players and you can even play as them in video games!


Do research to justify major ideas and evidence to prove them. For an extra challenge, research different points of view so you can compare whose evidence is better proof! For example, research the presidential candidates’ statements about homeland security, insurance, taxes, etc. and listen to their speeches and statements about their plans and promises. Who would you vote for after seeing evidence?

Extra Help Problems


Where in a presentation can you often find major ideas? (in the beginning, points that are emphasized over and over, etc.)


Where in a presentation can you often find evidence? (the parts that are cited, the details that are stated clearly with facts and numbers, etc.)


How can you tell the difference between major ideas and evidence? (major ideas are overall statements that explain a concept that the presentation’s evidence will prove and elaborate on)


What happens when you “shrink” a presentation? (you solidify, or highlight, the most significant ideas)


How can a presenter engage listeners, or make them pay attention? (grab their interest by making things funny or interesting; use expression, intonation, eye contact, etc.)


What are many, varied sources of information you can use to find evidence? (books, radio, newspaper, television, magazines, newspapers, etc.)


Why is it important to share informational evidence in presentations? (to impart knowledge – to help others learn and internalize (really understand) the knowledge for your self)


How much evidence is needed to support a major idea? (there is no certain amount – simply as much as needed depending on how complex the idea is)


What is another reference for a major idea? (a main idea or big idea)


After watching or listening to a presentation, can you determine a major idea when given a set of details? (yes)


After watching or listening to a presentation, can you list supporting evidence when given a major idea? (yes)


What does vice versa mean? (either way)


Can summaries contain only major ideas or points? (yes)


What media or methods of presentations are there? (poster boards, lecture, PowerPoints, videos, pictures, essays, skits, etc.)


What are modalities? (different ways people learn or take in information)


What are different kinds of modalities? (auditory – hearing, spatial/ kinesthetic – feel/ touch, visual – sight)


What do modalities have to do with presentations? (since people learn in different ways, the best presentations will provide information in many, varied ways)


What presentation tactics address people with auditory modalities? (videos, songs, effective speech, ear-catching sounds, etc.)


What presentation tactics address people with kinesthetic modalities? (movement, getting them to practice something or work hands-on with objects, etc.)


What presentation tactics address people with visual modalities? (bullet points, outlines, graphic organizers, pictures, etc.)


What are presentation skills that help enhance a presentation, or make it better? (verbal cues such as order- 1st, 2nd, 3rd; facial expressions like smiling; and gestures like pointing)


Why is it important to gather evidence from many, varied resources? (to cross-reference, or compare and contrast, the information given to determine what is true and valid)


What is similar between paraphrasing and summarizing? (they both make things shorter, or more succinct)


What is the difference between paraphrasing and summarizing? (paraphrasing is putting others’ ideas into your own words while summarizing is simply trying to shorten others’ ideas)


What is a formal presentation? (the opposite of informal – an official, proper, and/or recognized presentation)


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