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Summarizing involves reducing a text selection to its key points. Perfecting the skill of summarizing requires students to . . .

  • Identify the structural clues within a document.

  • Extract the main points or ideas from a reading selection.

  • Restate the text's main points in clear, succinct language.

Steps to Summarizing:

  1. Train students to recognize clear visual cues for summarizing: titles, subtitles, section headings,, and bold or italicized text. Point out obvious "summary clues" like tables of contents, glossaries, discussion questions, and illustrations.

  2. Teach students to identify the main words in each paragraph of text, especially technical terms and words that are not part of daily vocabulary.

  3. Explain the role of transition words in introducing main points. Emphasize the importance of repeated words or ideas.

  4. Instruct students to read a selection, distinguishing between the main ideas and supporting details. Have students reread the selection, identifying the topic sentence of each paragraph and the key words in these sentences.

  5. Next, ask students to group related ideas into "information clusters." (Some teachers use a "concept map" graphical organizer to help students visualize these relationships.)

  6. Have students write a preliminary summary of the reading selection. This first attempt will probably contain too much information. Ask students to identify and mark through the less important ideas.

  7. Have students compare their summary statements with others. Break the class into small groups and let each group consolidate their individual efforts into a group summary.

  8. Repeat this individual and group summary process often. Practice will improve summary skills. Regularly review the principles for summarizing and model these rules for students.

Learn More:

  • Pearson, P. and Fielding, L. In Barr, R., Kamil, M., Mosenthal, P., and Pearson, P. (ed.). Handbook of reading research, Vol. II (1991).

  • Summarizing

  • Summarizing

  • Summarizing


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