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Scaffolds to Support Summarizing

by Joan Sedita | 1 | 1 Comment

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

  1. Read the material and identify the main ideas. Distinguish the main ideas from the details.
  1. Write the main ideas in phrase form.
  1. Begin the summary with an introductory statement that lets the reader know the topic you are summarizing.
  1. Turn the main ideas into sentences, occasionally including details when necessary to convey the main idea.
  1. Combine the sentences into one or more paragraphs.
  1. Use transition words to connect the sentences and the paragraphs.
  1. Proofread the summary for punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and content.Summary Template

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:

Joan Sedita

Joan Sedita is the founding partner of Keys to Literacy and author of the Keys to Literacy routines. She is an experienced educator, nationally recognized speaker and teacher trainer. She has worked for over 35 years in the literacy education field and has presented to thousands of teachers and related professionals at schools, colleges, clinics, and professional conferences.

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1 Comment

  1. Melissa Ettinger

    Summarizing a text that is read by my students is often a difficult task for them. It is also a difficult concept to teach, particularly students with reading comprehension difficulties. The summary template that you have included in your blog is something I would like to try with my students as it will help them organize their thoughts. I particularly love the idea of students first writing short phrases to identify the main points of the text and then asking them to turn those phrases into sentences. Thank you for this post.

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