Scaffolds to Support Summarizing
Summarizing is one of the most effective activities for improving both comprehension and writing skills (National Reading Panel, 2000; Graham & Perin, 2007). Summarizing enhances comprehension as students select, condense, and synthesize in their own words the big ideas of what they have learned. Summarizing also lets teachers monitor student comprehension. It’s not surprising that the Common Core has devoted one of the ten reading standards to summarizing:
Reading Anchor Standard #2: Determine the central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting ideas and details.
However, summarizing is a difficult skill to teach and use. In order to summarize, students must be able to understand what they are reading, separate the main ideas from the details, and reduce a large quantity of information to the most important main ideas.
There are several scaffolds that can be provided to students who struggle to write summaries. The first is to provide students a “how to” list for generating a summary that breaks the task down into a series of steps, such as the example below.
How to Write a Summary
- Read the material and identify the main ideas. Distinguish the main ideas from the details.
- Write the main ideas in phrase form.
- Begin the summary with an introductory statement that lets the reader know the topic you are summarizing.
- Turn the main ideas into sentences, occasionally including details when necessary to convey the main idea.
- Combine the sentences into one or more paragraphs.
- Use transition words to connect the sentences and the paragraphs.
- Proofread the summary for punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and content.
Teachers can also provide a summarizing template, such as the one used in The Key Comprehension Routine shown here. A copy of this template can be downloaded from the Free Resources section of the Keys to Literacy website.
Here are some additional resources related to teaching summarizing:
- Summarizing (Reading Rockets)
- Teaching Students to Summarize (ASCD)
- The Art and Science of Teaching Summarizing to Comprehend (Educational Leadership)