Super Summarizing!

MGES Literacy Coach Newsletter Jan-Feb 2016

Super Summarizing!

Through our work with Learning Focused Lessons, we know that summarizing is an important skill. How can we make sure the summarizing we ask our students to do is powerful and actually leads to deeper understanding?

“In a synthesis of the research on summarizing, Rosenshine and his colleagues found that strategies that emphasize the analytic aspect of summarizing have a powerful effect on how well students summarize (1996).” (Source)

In this newsletter, we have highlighted 13 written summarization strategies that go beyond recall and involve analytical thinking. Some of the strategies may be beyond what K-1 students can yet write independently or with partners. However, most can be adapted by allowing students to use drawings or by creating the summaries in a whole or small group setting though shared writing.

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Important Considerations

As you consider summarizing strategies to include in lessons, think about where your students are in their ability to summarize and what activities best match their development stage.

The following reminders are from :

When You Ask Your Students to Summarize, What Usually Happens?

  • they write down everything
  • they write down next to nothing
  • they give me complete sentences
  • they write way too much
  • they don't write enough
  • they copy word for word

What Did You Want Them To Do?

  • pull out main ideas
  • focus on key details
  • use key words and phrases
  • break down the larger ideas
  • write only enough to convey the gist
  • take succinct but complete notes"

Anticipation Guides

An anticipation guide can be used as an activation and summarizing strategy! Students are given several statements that connect with the content of a text that will be read. The statements used in the guide should connect with larger themes or main ideas in the text so that they provide a springboard for a meaty discussion after the reading. The teacher or students read the statements and the students check if they agree or disagree with the statements.

After the text has been read and discussed, the students revisit their anticipation guide, revising their responses based on their thinking.

Click the link below to see an example based on the text Miss Rumphius. The video below is an example of an activation guide being used with the text Jin Woo.

Anticipation Guide

5-3-1 Strategy

Students independently come up with 5 main ideas from the text and/or lesson. Next, they work in a partnership to narrow the list down to the three best responses. Lastly, two partnerships join together to determine what the most important idea is.

Click on the Teacher Toolkit link below for a short video of a teacher explaining how she uses this strategy.

One Sentence Summaries

Students work independently or in partnerships to summarize the learning in one sentence. The teacher should be specific about letting the students know what she wants them to focus on in the summary (main idea, changes in characters feelings, etc.). The students are asked to be prepared to defend their summary based on evidence from the text/lesson.

If time permits, the summaries are shared with a partner or, if done in partnerships, with another partnership. Students read their summary and defend with evidence how it summarizes the learning.

Slide below from:

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Somebody... Wanted... But... So...

This one sentence summary often works well with fictional texts. Another popular version adds one more part to the end:

  • Somebody (Who is/are the main character/s?)
  • Wanted (What did the character/s want?)
  • But (What was the problem?)
  • So (How did the character/s try to solve the problem?)
  • Then (How was the problem solved?)

Image from:

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Six Word Summaries

Using 6 words, students describe a portion of a text, a character's traits, etc. Students share the phrases or sentences they wrote with a partner or small group. The student also justifies why they wrote that phrase or sentence, using text evidence. .

Example from picture below:

Captain Hook: He is a sneaky, bad captain.

Peter Pan: Selfish and cocky and childish, annoying

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"Give one, Get one, Move on" is another fun moniker for the strategy below.

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Cause/Effect Timeline

In advance of the lesson, the teacher prepares a timeline with a topic, dates and names of events already filled in. The students then, individually or with a partner, fill out the causes/ reasons why each event happened. This strategy can be used with events from fiction or nonfiction texts.

The template below, along with others, can be found at

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Helping Students Visualize How to Summarize with a Bucket and a Sponge...

Click the link below for a great article from Choice Literacy on common misconceptions kids have about summarizing and a creative way to teach children the process of summarizing!

Oldie but goodie...

Don't forget the simple stop and ink/ stop and jot strategy. This classic summarization strategy is very powerful for getting a quick check on the thinking of your students.

What does the research say?

“Teaching summarizing appears to improve memory and recall of details as well as main ideas discussed in the text.”

Armbruster, B. B., Anderson, T.H., and Ostertag, J. (1987). Does text structure/summarization instruction facilitate learning from expository text? Reading Research Quarterly, 22(3), 331-346.
Baumann, J. F. (1984). The effectiveness of a direct instruction paradigm for teaching main idea comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 20(1), 93-115.