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Practice Summarizing

“In order to enhance learning, summarization should be a process in which the ideas of a passage are related to one another, weighed, and condensed; a synthesis, not a selection.” 

Rosalie Friend
“Teaching summarization as a content area reading strategy.”  
Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy

Many homeschool parents incorporate notebooking into their studies. These compilations of what has been learned can also be called educational journals or educational scrapbooks.  Often the child determines what to include in their notebook; notebook “pages,” usually held together in a three-ring binder, can contain anything from narrations, timelines, lab reports, personal reflections,  to photos, etc.  While these notebooks can be valuable treasures and provide documentation of educational activities, notebooking is not explicitly summarizing practice.

Summarizing teaches students how to:

  • Make connections when merging ideas.
  • Study content across the curriculum.
  • Avoid plagiarism.
  • Lay foundation for writing research reports.

A critical skill in summarizing is including information that was important to the author of the original text.  It is essential to teach this concept because students naturally will look for information that seems important to them, often missing the main concept or “gist” of a passage

“The summary writer must decide what to include, what to eliminate, how to reword or reorganize information, and how to ensure that the summary is true to the original’s meaning.”

Valerie Anderson and Suzanne Hidi
“Teaching Students to Summarize” Educational Leadership Journal

Summaries can have two purposes:

1. To help the writer understand the original text (writer-based summary).

2. To present information to someone else (reader-based summary).

Writer-Based Summary

Summary writing practice should start with writer-based summarizing. When the writer is summarizing for his/her own purposes, writing mechanics do not need to be perfected, so the focus can be on the skill of summarizing itself. History or science texts can be used as content to be summarized. To practice summarizing, start with short narrative selections of text that is not complex, even including familiar concepts and ideas. Original text with a well-organized structure will be easier for beginning writers to practice summarizing. 

Reader-Based Summary

After students have had sufficient practice summarizing for themselves, they can begin writing summaries for a reader.  Reader-based summaries must take into consideration the purpose and needs of an audience and should be edited and revised. Polished writing mechanics would mark reader-based summaries.

PDF handout - Summarization Strategy explains how to teach students to summarize.