For comprehension skills, read our two-part series on Teaching Summaries, Getting Detailed.
A Skill for Learning
- We must pause and retell what we read.
- Then the student must decide what was important about the text.
- These decisions are paraphrased into the student's own words.
- Finally, the paraphrased thoughts are logically sequenced into a summary.
That's complex! No wonder students struggle with summarizing. It's a skill that promotes learning. Maybe more importantly, it's a skill that increases our ability to learn...much like exercise.
Using Summarizing in All Classrooms
How can summarizing be used in a variety of settings? How can this thinking strategy promote learning in all classroom?
In a science class, students can be asked after each step of an investigation to paraphrase the steps in the process. At the end of the investigation, students can read their paraphrasing and create three sentences to summarize the scientific process. It's more than simply a quiz or exit ticket. It's a task that promotes processing and learning.
In a math class, a teacher can meet with small groups to review errors made on last week's test. After analyzing and discussing each error, students write down the "gist" of the mistake. After this 10-15 minute small group lesson, they read aloud what they wrote and discuss the common thread in all of the mistakes. This discussion is a summary of the students' learning.