Reading can be challenging for students of all ages. Improving reading comprehension develops more than just language acquisition, it develops higher order thinking and all the skills that feed from that. Children and students need these strategies in work, personal life, and nearly every subject in school. Reading is connected to almost everything we do; low reading comprehension strategies can stunt an otherwise intelligent student’s potential. We have covered all seven of the most important reading strategies. Activating prior knowledge, questioning, inferences, and determining importance are all crucial strategies to improve reading comprehension.
We would now like to cover summarizing. The following strategies may be used with the other strategies to bolster reading comprehension even more and there is not one strategy that sits in isolation. So we will highlight where these resources and ideas cover other strategies. We will also have links so you can download resources for these skills for your lessons or homeschool.
Summarizing skills require students to cut text down to only the essential information. to make is easy and quicker to read, understand and process. It is one of the core seven reading comprehension strategies and is closely related to determining importance skills in text.
Summarizing is a skill that will be necessary throughout school and life. Students need to summarize in language arts class, but they may also need to do so in research for work, meeting notes, or storytelling throughout their lives. These strategies will help them hone a skill that will take them far while also improving their comprehension of texts.
The following strategies can be used in a variety of classrooms. Some strategies will be better for older students, while others will appeal to younger ones. These strategies, however, can be adapted in many cases.
Have a target “cost” in mind and have your child write a summary of the text they have read. Assign words a set value. For instance, words might be worth $0.25 or $0.10. The shorter you can get them to write the summary, the more they will have to think about the important details of the story. I do this with stickers, nuts or candy in my classroom (allergies allowing of course) and whatever they have left at the end they can keep. The summary has to make sense of course!!!
Books might be five pages (kids board books) or five hundred. Ask your child to tell you about their favorite book in two minutes or less. If your child is older, you might even bring social media into it. The TL;DR version or Twitter version might be an excellent way to have your child begin to think about what they can tell you in 140 characters or two minutes. using Padlet or similar learning platforms if you are in a classroom could be a great way to do this as well.
The L in K-W-L is learned. (what I know – what I want to know- what I learned) Of course, children cannot explain every detail that they learned about a concept. You are not asking them to reteach you. You are asking them to tell what they learned. They will have to consider what information is important and compact it to fit on the chart. This approach will teach students to split the information they have learned and read in their text and to then decide which aspects are important enough to go into a summary.
Using a journalistic approach have your child think about the “newspaper questions” to talk about a topic. The five w’s are who, what, when, where, and why. How is also part of these questions. This allows them to think of the most important information in the text and then put it into categories. With the question words as headings it provides support for students to pull out details that would be important in a summary.
If the child or student cannot answer these questions, they may need to review the information again with some support, if you can scaffold for them they can then try to do the task on their own. It also simplifies the information into small chunks that make your child shorten their answers. It is important to remember that all of these strategies are to teach skills, so taking time and allowing support is going to be vital for most students.
Once your child has sorted all of the details by importance, have them retell the story or concept. Let them remove what is not important and create a paragraph or sentence to talk about what is essential. One of the most important aspects of a summary is that unnecessary information is removed. This can be done by ever decreasing circles, have them summarize first in the big circle using any information they want, then in the medium circle and finally in the small circle. Showing them how they can trim out the less important information. you can use our resources for this. It will show them the progression of summarizing, and also as well as covering determining importance it also encourages them to look and evaluate their own work! For this every teacher will thank you !
Silly games like explain the concept in one sentence badly, will make your child think about what would explain the thing but make it sound silly. For instance, if your child is trying to explain what an author does “badly,” he or she might say, “This person will lie to you on paper.” You can then guess what occupation your child is describing.
This activity resembles a K-W-L chart that students might use when learning nonfiction concepts, but this chart can help students think about what is happening in the story. Your child can think about the protagonist in the story. They become the “somebody” in the chart. Then, your child can think about what they want. Next, your child can think about what was preventing the protagonist from getting what they wanted. The “So” portion is what happens in the end. This removes the unnecessary parts of the story, and also could be used for inferring and predicting strategies. We have resources available on this also.
Drawing a picture or page from a graphic novel will force your child to choose which details are most important. They will have a limited amount of space and tools to get the point across. You can only put so many words in thought bubbles and side notes before they are unreadable and overtake the page. Students will have to summarize and shorten everything.
If your child is coming home from school or has been working independently, you can “charge them” entrance fees to the fun things they want to do. They have to summarize the story they read in class. They cannot get to their next activity until they complete their last. They will want to get the information across as quickly as possible.
Summarizing is a skill that is utilized beyond reading. It is an important life skill that will is important in both college and careers later on in life.
Check out our resources on the site as well.
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, mostly English but dabbled in outdoor pursuits and media. Thought is was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children. Feel free to take a look at our resources, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or jump on the Facebook group to ask questions. Happy learning, teaching or playing!