Thursday, September 30, 2010

Responding to Reading - Teaching Summary

One of the toughest things for kids is to create a summary of something that they have read. It is a requirement of every grade in some shape, length, and form, and many gauge how well they have understood a piece by how well they can summarize.

Summarizing, however, is a separate skill in itself. They need to be taught it -- and practice - A LOT.

Just to be clear, summarizing is different than retelling - summarizing hits the main points, retelling is more sequential and could contain more detail.

I start with teaching the difference between main idea and detail. Kids easily get distracted and focus on details because they are interesting and memorable...but often extraneous. So I take a magazine picture -- usually something that will catch their eye. Wordless is awesome - they are free from the weight of accuracy and decoding words.

I have them start by telling me about everything in the picture. I write down each thing on a chart paper. For example, if it is a picture of kids on the beach, they will tell me everything from waves to sky to the color of the suits they are wearing. I point out to them that they have done more of a retelling when they do this, and now we need to go through and label each item D for detail (a small part) or MI for main idea (what the picture is mostly about). Once we do that, they create a sentence or two using the statements that have MI next to them. VOILA! A summary statement of the picture.

We do this a few times together and then they start doing it independently. Once they have pictures down, we move to small chunks of text and gradually longer text until they get it.

If you are frustrated with their lack of being able to create a summary (those book reports are all over it!), try will be fascinated to see how it clicks!

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