How to Teach Summary Writing

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This article was written by Tristen Bonacci and wikiHow staff writer Janice Tieperman. Tristen Bonacci is a licensed English teacher with over 20 years of experience. Tristen has taught both in the United States and abroad. She specializes in teaching in the high school setting and sharing wisdom with others, regardless of setting. Tristen has a BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado and an MA from the University of Phoenix. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 30,331 times.

Summarizing is certainly a valuable skill, but it can be difficult to teach new students. If your students are young children or ESL students, they may not understand the purpose of summaries or may have difficulty expressing themselves concisely. With a little time, patience, and repetition, you can guide your students through the summarizing process while providing support and encouragement along the way!

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    Explain what a summary is to start your lesson. Describe an abstract as a brief overview of a story, article, or other work. Please note that the summaries are completely factual and do not include opinions or arguments. Before jumping into the lesson, let your students know that they will be learning the basics of summarizing and practicing simple exercises.[1]

    • Be encouraging throughout the lesson! Summarizing can be confusing and stressful for new students, and your support and knowledge will help them relax.
    • It may be helpful to use an overhead projector, PowerPoint, or other visual aid while explaining the basics to summarize.
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    Read a short story or essay with your class. Pick a short passage that doesn’t take you a long time to go through. You can read the passage to your class or encourage your students to read it aloud if they wish.[2]
    Choose a text that is easy to understand so that your students do not get confused during the summarizing process.[3]

    • For example, if you are teaching younger children, consider using an excerpt from a children’s book. If you are working with older children, use an article, biography, or other passage that is easy to understand.
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    Help your students highlight any important sentences or ideas. As you read, encourage your students to highlight or underline any important information that helps describe the entire passage. Invite them to look for essential information that answers the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how.[4]

    • Alternatively, you can ask them to cover the book and write what stands out.[5]
    • I can annotate them as a bullet point or a sketch.[6]
    • You can find useful templates online, such as the ReadWriteThink website.

    did you know Many teachers use the GIST method when teaching summaries, which involves writing the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a paragraph on a separate worksheet. If you want to take small steps in the summarizing process, encourage your students to first write a 20-word summary, or “essential,” after answering these basic questions.

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    Provide a sample summary to help your students. Use a popular story or passage to help your students understand what a true summary looks like. Don’t use a passage you just read; Instead, choose a movie or TV show that your students are familiar with, and then offer a sample summary based on that. Explain how your summary includes essential information without including unnecessary detail.[7]

    • For example, if you were to summarize the movie Titanic, you might say something like, “A rich woman and a poor man meet on an expensive cruise ship. As the ship sets sail, they both fall in love despite the added complications. Their journey eventually ends in tragedy when the ship sinks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
    • Remind your students that they have probably already summarized the story, such as when describing a movie or TV show to a friend.
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    Ask your class to share the sentences they highlighted. Invite individual students to share sentences or phrases that they thought were important. Use a whiteboard, projector, or other technology to record your students’ responses to the collaborative checklist. Continue going around the class until everyone has presented their ideas.[8]

    • For example, if you read a story like “Cinderella,” some of the main ideas might be how Cinderella’s stepsisters ruined her dress, or how the fairy godmother gives her a new dress to wear.
    • If you are working with older students and reading a book like “The Pearl”, you may want to focus on when Kino first finds the pearl and when he tries to sell it.
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    Pick 5 main ideas that really sum up the main story. Review the list of ideas you collected from your students. While he probably received some duplicates, he may have some ideas listed that are more or less important than others. Invite your students to choose points that really capture the essence of the passage without dwelling on irrelevant details.[9]

    • For example, in “Cinderella,” the fairy godmother who gave Cinderella the dress and carriage would be more important information to include in the summary than the fact that Cinderella had a cat and a dog.
    • If you are working with older students, you could work with a story like “The Great Gatsby.” In this case, the main idea would be the pursuit and failure of happiness, as opposed to a statement about what Gatsby’s house was like.
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    Include transition words to connect ideas. Separate the top 5 ideas into a list, and then start thinking about how to connect the dots. Encourage your students to use transition phrases like “next,” “after this,” or “at this point” to keep your summary sounding smooth and polished. Work together on a sample summary so your students have a clear idea of ​​what they need to do.[10]

    • If you’re summarizing an article or paragraph where someone expresses an opinion, use phrases like “agree with” to keep your summary unbiased.
    • If you’re summarizing a story like “Jack and the Beanstalk,” try writing a summary like this: “Jack uses his family’s money to buy a packet of magic beans. To show his annoying mother that he hasn’t wasted his money, Jack plants a seed and climbs a growing bean stalk. At that time, he finds a giant kingdom and steals their golden egg, which ends up making a lot of money for Jack’s family.
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    Encourage your students to rephrase and paraphrase the summary. Remind your class that they do not want to copy words from the article verbatim, which counts as plagiarism. Instead, show them how to paraphrase the sentences in their own words. Give your students time to practice writing their own sentences using the example paragraph and summary.[11]

    • If the original text says something like “The girl ran through the forest to get away from the attacker,” you can paraphrase it as “The wolf started hunting the girl, so she ran very fast to get away.”
    • If the essay or article says something like “The government will try to pass a new law next year,” you can paraphrase it as “According to members of the government, the traffic law will be passed relatively soon.”
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    Add a concluding sentence to tie the summary together. Ask your students to come up with a sentence that will help you connect all the confusions into your joint summary. Explain that the sentence should complete the summary without repeating the original information, which would make the summary seem repetitive.[12]

    • For example, the final sentence of a summary of “Star Wars Episode 6” might be: “Luke, Leia, and Han reflect on the past before focusing on what the future holds.”
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    Offer another passage for your students to read and record. Offer an article, biography, or other light passage that your students can skim over. Give them time to read the paragraph and write down 5 main ideas that can be included in the summary, as well as who, what, where, when, why and how. Try to let them figure out the information for themselves so they can be more confident in their summary writing skills.[13]

    • Remind your students that you are there to help them if needed.
    • For example, if you and your students are reading “Romeo and Juliet,” you could mark the “who” as Romeo and Juliet, the “what” as a tragic love story, the “where” as Verona, the “when” as Shakespeare’s era, the “why” as a family feud and the “how” as a pair of tragic suicides.
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    Invite your class to write a summary of the exercise. After your students have collected the key points and information from the passage, invite them to write a short summary of a few sentences. After they finish writing, review the summaries to see how well your students did. Provide feedback when necessary, and help your students simplify their writing whenever possible.[14]

    • For example, in the summary of “The Three Little Pigs,” you might write something like “The three little pigs’ lives are often interrupted by the villain who destroys their home. They are finally safe when they seek refuge in a strong house.” that the wolf cannot fly”.
    • A summary of “The Outsiders” might sound like this: “Several children are involved in a gang conflict that threatens to tear their small community apart.”

    Advice: If your students have trouble writing short, concise summaries, encourage them to summarize the passage in 1-3 sentences. Once they’ve learned how to write short summaries, encourage them to add a little more information.[15]

  3. Image titled Teach Summary Writing Step 12

    Encourage your students to try the verbal summaries first. If your students have a problem, ask them to verbalize what they just read in a few sentences. This exercise can help you clarify and brainstorm your written summary.[16]

    • A verbal summary might sound like this: “Star Wars begins in a galaxy far, far away, where a galactic war is currently taking place. The franchise’s heroes, Luke and Leia, battle their long-lost father, who is the archenemy.”
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    Provide your students with practice questions to answer on the summaries. Distribute the worksheet to your students, along with some sample paragraphs. Encourage students to write practice summaries together on the worksheet, using the samples provided. After they finish writing, review the summaries to see how they did.[17]

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