Summarizing Activity: Wangari Muta Maathai

Sometimes you have one of those inspiration moments.   I was wondering what to do with the 3rd grade classes following a week of running the Scholastic Book Fair.  If you haven’t done a book fair, let me tell you, it leaves you drained and uninspired.

I had read the book, Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya to 2nd grade classes who are studying about people who make a difference in their communities.  Being a IB/PYP school I try to broaden the idea to a global scale and had thought of Maathai, an environmentalist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize for peace.

The 3rd grades are in a unit covering the Georgia Performance Standard in Science:

S3L2. Students will recognize the effects of pollution and humans on the environment.
a. Explain the effects of pollution (such as littering) to the habitats of plants and
b. Identify ways to protect the environment.
• Conservation of resources
• Recycling of materials

I thought I would be able to use this book by Donna Jo Napoli to show them how one woman made a huge impact on the Kenyan environment.

Utilizing Encyclopedia

Mama Miti book next to desktop displaying Encyclopedia Britannica article on Maathai

The book I read to the class and the online encyclopedia article on Maathai that we read together.

I read the book to the class and then pulled up Encyclopedia Britannica Student via our Galileo Kids online database.  There was a short article on Maathai that was appropriate for 3rd graders to read.  I projected it onto the screen and the students took turns reading it aloud.  We stopped if necessary to clarify a word or to emphasize a point.  I gave each student a lined index card and directed them to a desktop or laptop which already had the article pulled up.  Some chose to work with a partner, while others wanted to work alone.


I wanted them to  summarize what they had heard while I read the book and what we had read together in the encyclopedia article.  They were to write one complete sentence in their own words which would tell an important fact about Dr. Maathai.  I then asked for 5 words that described Maathai.  I modeled this by using their teacher as an example.  I asked for one word that would tell a stranger something important about their teacher.  The first word supplied was teacher.  I called on 4 other students until we came up with 5 words or phrases that would describe important features or characteristics of their teacher.

Index card with summarizing sentence and 5 descriptive words or phrases.

Each student summarized our readings about Maathai by writing one complete sentence and then a list of 5 descriptive words or phrases.

Tagxedo Word Cloud

After the class left, I then typed all of the words into the word cloud creator, Tagxedo.  This website allows you to create a word cloud in a shape.  I chose a tree shape and created the word cloud which I emailed to the teacher so that the students could discuss in class which words or phrases were used most often to describe Maathai (the words that appear larger).

Wangari Orme Tagxedo word cloud summarizing

This Tagxedo word cloud was created using the 5 words written by each student in the 3rd grade class, who were learning to summarize readings.

Follow Up Activity

I wanted to do more with this information literacy instruction, so I spoke with the 3rd grade teachers and we decided that we could use the sentences written by the students as content to create a Prezi.  The teachers wanted their students to create a Prezi for their next unit,  so this would be a good practice for them.  We’ll be doing that next week and I’ll blog about it.  Stayed tuned!


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