One area that is notorious for student confusion is summarizing. Teaching children to summarize is no small task. It's one of the hardest strategies for children to grasp because it is a skill that needs time. Your child needs to repeatedly see and hear summarizing modeled. They need ample time and opportunities to practice it, daily. Summarizing is such a valuable strategy it is well worth a few small moments as you read those good night stories this school year.
What Is Summarizing?
Webster's calls a summary the "general idea in brief form;" Summarizing is how we take the gist, the key ideas, the main points that are worth noting and remembering out of a text.
What Are We Doing When We Summarize?
We strip away and only focus on the heart of the work. We try to find the key words and phrases that manage to capture the gist of what we've read. We are trying to capture the main ideas and the crucial details necessary for supporting them.
What do you want your child to be able to do?
- pull out main ideas
- focus on key details
- use only key words and phrases
- write only enough to convey the gist
- take succinct but complete notes of larger ideas
Some ideas to get started:
- Have your child practice verbalizing summaries of familiar or interesting topics, such as "What I during a sport or music practice" or "What I did at school today."
- After you close each book play “newspaper mantra” games: use key words or phrases to identify only Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. The first nights have them tell you who was in the stories. You tell them the what. Etc…
· Keep a reading diary. (If parents do the writing and children do the thinking it should take just a few minutes.) Write the date and the book and a headline for the story. Who does what? By summarizing in a headline-writing, your child will begin to sort out main ideas from details of the text. Don’t require sentences, this is not an assignment; keep it under six words each evening.
· As you read nonfiction help your child to recognize headlines are summaries. Show them if they read the headlines, they're getting the gist.
· They can also summarize the lyrics from a favorite song or poem.
· Summarize a movie, field trip, party.
Summarizing is more than retelling it is a higher level of thinking. It involves analyzing information, distinguishing important from unimportant elements and translating large chunks of information into a few short cohesive sentences. Fiction and nonfiction texts, media, conversations, internet information, and events can all be summarized. Summarizing is a skill at which most adults must be proficient to be successful today. With the digital age, and the speed in which our children receive new information summarizing will be imperative to the adults of tomorrow.
Working with summarizing is truly about equipping your children to be lifelong learners.