Summary Lesson Plans

Students can learn how to write summaries with the help of graphic organizers, and summarization lessons.

By Lesley Roberts


Summarizing Lesson Plan

As we begin to reinforce strong comprehension skills, we must remember that one of the hardest skills to teach students is summarizing. It is hard for kids to distinguish between main ideas and supporting details, and it is this confusion that clouds students' understanding. Summarization includes recognizing the main ideas of a passage and being able to retell those ideas in a few sentences. How can you teach students how to determine the main ideas, and what's important and what's not?

Let's start with discussing the importance of summarization. As students identify links to prior knowledge and connections to main ideas in text, they enhance comprehension and retention. Summarization can also be considered as an organizational strategy, it promotes "deep processing" thinking skills, while building reference points to unknown information. A summary will usually have four defining features: (a) it will be short; (b) it will tell what is most important to the author; (c) it will be written "in students own words;" and (d) it will state the big ideas of the passage.

Teachers can promote student skill in summarizing by providing direct instruction about cues to identifying text-based importance. Students can also use thought maps to help them organize passage or paragraph summaries. Some teachers use cues such as the 5 W's in summarization of expository passages. Being able to pick out the "who, what, when, where, and why" details of a passage can help some students get on the right track to building strong summaries. In summarizing narrative text, students can use a similar strategy in which they start out using a graphic organizer in the shape of a 5x5 grid. The first row of the grid will contain the words of the following phrase: Somebody / Wanted / But / So / Then. Students will fill in the second row of the grid with corresponding details. If we use the story of "Little Red Riding Hood", it would look like this.






Little Red Riding Hood

Went to see her grandmother.

A big, bad wolf tried to trick her.

She screamed in fright.

A woodsman came to save her.

If we take the information from the graphic organizer and put it in summary format, it looks like this: Little Red Riding Hood wanted to go see her grandmother, but a big, bad wolf tried to trick her. So she screamed in fright and a woodsman came to save her. This strategy works well in whole group instruction as well as small group instruction.

The following lesson plans can help you implement these strategies. I found many other great lesson plans that can also assist in teaching summarization. Those listed below are just a few of the ones I found.

Summarizing Lesson Plans:

What Was That All About???: This is a great lesson plan to use with students in third through fifth grades. It teaches the difference between important ideas and less important ideas.

Summary: In this lesson plan, students practice identifying elements of a good summary, and then create a summary in small groups and independently.

Using Important Events to Summarize Literary Text: This lesson plan allows students to practice writing summaries on short stories (picture or beginning books), and them write summaries for longer stories (novels).

Summarization: Students will incorporate cooperative and kinesthetic activities to learn about how to create a summary from a story read aloud to them.

To Make a Long Story Short. . .:  This lesson focuses on using news articles to strengthen the summarizing skills of middle and high school students.