Shrinking Summaries | Summarizing

When teaching my students the concept of summarizing, I like to make sure they understand that they just can’t write everything. Have you ever had a student (or even your child) want to just tell you every little detail to the point that you desperately want to start doing this:

I know I have. Since those cute little kiddos can slow you down during a time when you need to move on, it’s best to teach them the concept of summarizing using only the most important ideas!

Teaching students the concept of summarizing in reading or any subject matter can be packed full of unrelated details. Check out this idea on how to get students to retell and write only the main idea!

When I teach summarizing, I provide my students first with a regular piece of paper like the blue sheet in the image above. I tell them to summarize the topic we studied (or book read). Then after they have written it, I provide them with a new sheet – the green above. I stress that it’s important to take what they wrote on the blue sheet, but cut it down a bit. I explain it has to fit on this pink sheet so I suggest that they cut out some of the parts that may not be as important to understanding the main idea. Then after they finish that, I once again go a bit smaller and provide the with the smaller green sheet. (At this point they usually wonder just how many more I’m going to give them!)  This is when I say, “you know, I really just need the absolutely most important idea.”

When students are finished, we then compare the difference between the three and share. It’s a great way to help students see just how little they need to provide while summarizing.


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