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May 16. 2017

8 Ways to Help Students Summarize: A Teacher Tip from Fountas & Pinnell

Summarizing is a very important in-the-head strategy. The purpose is to help the reader comprehend the text. The current emphasis on proficiency tests--write a summary or select a good summary from alternatives or annotate the text--makes summarizing a required skill. The goal, however, is larger than passing the test. We want students to be able to abstract the important ideas and carry them forward as tools for thought. Here are eight ways in which you can help students learn to summarize:

  1. Write a summary yourself of a text that students know or have read and ask students to analyze what makes it a summary.
  2. Begin the process with short texts that do not have too many details and are easier to summarize.
  3. Work together to create a group summary, selecting and deleting details.
  4. Record a retelling of a text on chart paper and turn it into a summary.
  5. Have students work in pairs to create alternative summaries that are concise and include only the necessary details.
  6. Have each student write a summary and then share it with a partner.
  7. Ask students to summarize a text in their Reader's Notebook, and respond to this summary in the letter you write back.
  8. Encourage students to practice summarizing by making book talks to recommend books to their friends.
Adapted from Guiding Readers and Writers by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Copyright (c) 2001 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Published by Heinemann.