Friday, August 5, 2011

Summarizing and ESL Students

Question: How can teachers help ESL—and native English—speakers learn how to summarize?

Answer/Quote: “Interest in summarizing as a practice to promote reading comprehensions can be traced to studies of the 1920s and 1930s.”

“Hill (1991) makes the point that students do not know intuitively how to write effective summaries. The task is especially complex for second-language learners because they must negotiate both unfamiliar syntax and unfamiliar vocabulary to achieve comprehension and construct a summary. Hill suggests that teachers direct students to begin with the simplest type of summary: a chronology of events associated with narratives. This is, in essence, a retelling dictated by the simple progression of events in a story….”

“Moving beyond chronology, students…learn to condense by choosing main points and reorganizing them into summaries for a variety of text structures….” P. 149.

“…the teacher can write a summary while the students, alone or in small groups, write a summary of their own. Teacher and students can then compare these summaries, discussing and evaluating effective versus less effective products.” Pp. 149-150.

Comment: Using a list of events is a good beginning for learning how to write a summary. Beyond that, students need to learn where to find main ideas in expository material, in the thesis, in topic sentences and in final, summarizing paragraphs. I like the technique of having the teacher and the students writing their own summaries and then discussing their effectiveness. The point of summarizing, of course, is to demonstrate comprehension. However, writing good summaries is not easy. And students do need to be taught how to write them. RayS.

Title: “Comprehending through Reading and Writing: Six Research-Based Instructional Strategies.” N Farnan, J Flood and D Lapp. Pp. 135-137. In Kids Come in All Languages: Reading Instruction for ESL Students. Eds. K Spangensberg-Urgschat and R Pritchard. Newark, DE: IRA. 1994, 108-131.

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