Learning about summarizing...by classifying! - The Teacher Studio: Learning, Thinking, Creating

Learning about summarizing...by classifying!

If you teach "summarizing" in your classroom, you know that it is a REALLY tricky skill.  Students often struggle to know what the most important details are...sometimes write down every single thing that happens...and usually miss that "heart of the story" piece.  Because it is one of our assessed skills all year, I knew I wanted to do a better job modeling and scaffolding for my class this year.

To get started, we talked about summarizing, how it differs from retelling (which is oral and detailed), and how it not only has to capture the key elements of the story, but also that "theme" or big idea the author wants you to carry with you.  That's pretty complicated stuff!

I took some time and wrote 5 sample summaries for our most recent read aloud, Shredderman.  I asked the students to work in pairs to read them, discuss them, and then decide if they were "oh no!", "decent" or "wahoo!".  They had some great discussions...


...then we came back and each group placed their summaries where they felt they belonged.  We had a LOT of variation!  We read each one aloud and talked about the strengths and shortcomings of each (ex.  One was well written and many students gave it a "wahoo!" until I pointed out that it was an OPINION piece, not a summary!), and I think it set us up well for tomorrow's lesson where we are going to try to write our own summaries on some simplistic short texts.  Stay tuned!


  1. GREAT idea! Summarizing can be so hard for kids. I have a teacher friend struggling with this right now and I can't wait to share your post with her.

    The Math Maniac

  2. Love this! We were just struggling with this today, as many of my self-motivated students were so proud to share their "summary," which were beautiful, descriptive, detailed RETELLINGS!! We had a long discussion about the difference, but this activity will make it more concrete. Thanks, Meg!

  3. Love this! As a new teacher I am finding many of my students are struggling with summarizing! Could you explain to me how you went about setting this up and using it??


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