Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Question: What are some suggestions for teaching students how to summarize? What happens when students don’t learn how to summarize?

Answer: “ ‘Writing summaries? No. I don’t teach my students how to write summaries. They should already know that skill when they come into my classroom.’

                So says many a secondary teacher. English teachers spend much more instruction time on the writing of full narrative and expository texts or critical analysis than on the production of summaries. In content classes, writing emphasis is on research papers for which the use of summaries would be very helpful. But because they lack training in doing otherwise, many students copy verbatim instead of summarizing for their papers. It seems that even though summarizing is expected of most students in the United States, few receive direct instruction in summary writing.” P. 536.

 What are summaries? “Summaries are short statements that condense information and reflect the gist of discourse.” P. 537.

(1) “Summary writing must be initiated from the text pattern with which students are most familiar—narrative.

(2) Initially, summary writing is most effective if it uses a narrative or time structure.

(3) Direct instruction of summary writing has proven to be most effective.

 (4) When students are given a format such as enumeration and time sequence with text frames, they are usually successful.

(5) A key concept map is an effective organizational tool for summary writing in content classes.

(6) Most students, even adults, progress through developmental stages as they write summaries. Their summaries develop from chronology to ones based more on logical arrangements.” Pp. 538-539.

Comment: I’m guilty. I always expected students to know how to summarize and I never taught them how to. RayS.

Title: “Writing Summaries Promotes Thinking and Learning Across the Curriculum—But Why Are they So Difficult to Write?” Margaret Hill. Journal of Reading (April 1991), 536-539.

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