Since I began teaching, I have learned that teaching students how to summarize and take notes was not an easy task! I have found it to be one of the hardest things for students to learn how to do, which caused me even more frustration!
Research has shown that teaching summarizing and note taking is the #2 way to increase student achievement. We all know how it's ALL about those tests! I have also realized in order for students to be successful summarizing and taking notes, they need to be well versed in main idea! It all goes hand in hand.
There are a lot of tools/strategies out there, like the Telegram - writing a summary in 20 words or less, but they don't actually teach the student HOW to do it. So, over the past two and a half years, I have learned several ways that actually TEACH the student how to write an effective summary. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Key Word - This strategy is useful for teaching students to summarize informational text. Start by choosing short paragraphs from your students’ science or social studies texts. Guide them in selecting the most important 2-3 word phrases (not including prepositions, articles, or conjunctions) in each sentence and write them so they are visible to the whole class. I have my students write them down on index cards.
This strategy takes A LOT of practice. Students often have trouble picking out the heart of the sentence so constantly modeling and thinking aloud which parts are important is crucial! After you select your words and phrases from each sentence, model taking the key words or phrases and summarizing them out loud. Then, have them turn to a partner and try to summarize orally using those key words and phrases. After they become fluent in orally summarizing their key words, you can have them start writing paragraph summaries with their key words.
I wanted to give up on this after the first couple of times I tried it, but I kept pushing and eventually they started to get it. Do NOT give up! I promise if you keep working at it, they will become experts!
2. Somebody Wanted But So - This strategy is really only useful for fictional text. You can use it with read alouds, chapters in a novel, or short stories.
Somebody - Cinderella
Wanted - to go to the ball
But - her evil step mother made her do chores
So - her fairy god mother came and saved the day!
You will need to model this several times and practice doing it as a whole class before you have your students try to do it on their own. I have my students use this format on their nightly reading logs if they read fictional text.
I like this strategy because it not only teaches students to summarize, but it helps them understand conflict and resolution.
Here is a SWBS chart to use in your classrooms.
3. Souvenirs - This is one of my favorite tools for summarizing/retelling because you can use it for fictional AND informational text. Having students make sketches or providing them with pictures will help them make connections and remember the important parts of what they read. These sketches/pictures are the souvenirs your students will use to summarize.
For this strategy, you can have them make their own souvenirs or you can provide the souvenirs for them. As you read a story, you can stop after every major event and have them make a quick two minute sketch. At the end of the story, have them use their sketches to summarize.
When reading non-fiction, you can provide pictures or clip art to go along with each event. We have been learning about the Revolutionary War and for each battle, person, and key event, I have a small picture that they keep in a plastic bag. We pull them out at the beginning of each lesson and use them to help us summarize what we have learned. It also helps them remember sequence of events. You can have them mix them up and put them in the correct order and then have them summarize what they learned to a partner.
Social Studies tends to be hard for students because there is so much content, but I have found that using this strategy helps them retain that souvenir in their mind and then they use it to tell what they know about it. I was very impressed with this strategy and I will definitely continue using it in the future!