Summarizing is an important reading comprehension strategy to teach elementary students. It helps readers better understand and enjoy stories they read and listen to. Summarizing is the ability to determine the main idea and key details of what was read and describe them in your own words. When students are summarizing they must consider the main points of a text while ignoring any irrelevant information. Summarizing often requires students to consider the plot, characters, setting, problem, solution, and themes of a text. Learn all about how to teach summarizing below!
What is Summarizing?
Learning to summarize is one of the most challenging reading strategies for students to master. Summarizing is the ability to determine the main idea and key details of what was read and describe them in your own words. When students are summarizing they must consider the main points of a text while ignoring any irrelevant information. Summarizing often requires students to consider the plot, characters, setting, problem, solution, and themes of a text.
This strategy tends to be challenging for students because it requires them to have a high level of comprehension of the text. They must be able to organize the information they learned in the text, pick out the main ideas, and simplify the information. Then, they must be able to remember all the information and put it in their own words to demonstrate what they learned.
Often, summarizing and retelling are confused. Summarizing is different from retelling because it requires more than just telling what happened. Readers must analyze the information they read, pick out the important pieces, ignore unimportant information, and then compose a summary in a few short sentences.
Why Is Summarizing an Important Comprehension Strategy?
The ability to summarize is not only an important skill for reading, but it is an important life skill. In fact, this is a skill that most adults need to be proficient in their daily lives and jobs.
In regard to reading, summarizing is important because it allows students to think critically about a text and decide what is important and ignore any information that is not important. When they are summarizing, they are focusing on the main ideas of a text. This allows the teacher and the student to monitor comprehension. When a student is able to summarize, they are able to show understanding of the main idea and details.
Additionally, summarizing a text helps students to improve their memory of what was read. This is because they know what important information is worth remembering.
Teaching Standards for Summarizing
Standards for this reading comprehension topic include…
- RL.1.2 – Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
- RL.2.2 – Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
- RL.3.2 – Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
- RL.4.2 – Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
- RL.5.2 – Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
- Grade 1
- ELA.1.6.G – The student is expected to evaluate details to determine what is most important with adult assistance.
- ELA.1.7.D – The student is expected to retell texts in ways that maintain meaning.
- ELA.1.8.A – The student is expected to discuss topics and determine theme using text evidence with adult assistance.
- Grade 2
- ELA.2.6.G – The student is expected to evaluate details read to determine key ideas.
- ELA.2.7.D – The student is expected to retell and paraphrase texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order.
- ELA.2.8.A – The student is expected to discuss topics and determine theme using text evidence with adult assistance.
- Grade 3
- ELA.3.6.G – The student is expected to evaluate details read to determine key ideas.
- ELA.3.7.D – The student is expected to retell and paraphrase texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order.
- ELA.3.8.A – The student is expected to infer the theme of a work, distinguishing theme from topic.
- Grade 4
- ELA.4.6.G – The student is expected to evaluate details read to determine key ideas.
- ELA.4.7.D – The student is expected to retell, paraphrase, or summarize texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order.
- ELA.4.8.A – The student is expected to infer basic themes supported by text evidence.
- Grade 5
- ELA.5.6.G – The student is expected to evaluate details read to determine key ideas.
- ELA.5.7.D – The student is expected to retell, paraphrase, or summarize texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order.
- ELA.5.8.A – The student is expected to infer multiple themes within a text using text evidence.
3 Tips for Teaching Students to Summarize
Below are suggestions for when you teach your students about summarizing when reading.
1. Read Aloud Picture Books
Reading aloud picture books is a great way to model and practice this reading comprehension strategy. There are tons of great read alouds out there for teaching students to summarize a book. Some high-quality examples include Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre, Hair Love, The Paperboy, Cloudette, and Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday.
2. Make Anchor Charts
Anchor charts are another great way to teach students about summarizing. My summarizing resource includes an interactive anchor chart that successfully engages students in their learning and provides a visual learning experience for students to learn about summarizing.
3. Use Videos
The third on the list of tips for teaching students to summarize is playing videos. This is another great visual learning opportunity for students to learn about what can feel like a very abstract idea. This is an example of a video that is great for teaching students how to summarize stories.
These printable and digital resources for teaching elementary students about summarizing make curriculum and lesson planning quick and easy. It includes teacher, parent, and student resources, so you’ll have everything you need to deliver meaningful research-based instruction rooted in current best practices.
What is Included
1. Teacher Resources
There are teacher notes about the strategy, teaching ideas, a planning page with question prompts, and list of mentor texts, so you have all of the information you need to plan a research and standards-based reading unit based on this reading comprehension strategy.
2. Parent Resources
There is a parent letter and a reading log with suggested question prompts so parents can confidently support and reinforce the strategy you are teaching with their children at home.
3. Instructional Resources
There are printables to create a large anchor chart and reference charts. Both save you lots of time searching for anchor chart ideas and supplemental teaching tools.
4. Student Resources
There are 3 printables and 2 activities for students that provide meaningful opportunities to practice and make sense of the reading strategy in a fun and engaging way
5. Digital Resources
There are digital versions of several of the resources so students can access them in school or at home using a technology device of their choice.
Why Teachers Love this Resource
- This collection of resources is versatile in that it can be used on it’s own or can be used to supplement any reading curriculum, so you will be able to continue to use these resources if your school adopts a new reading program or you switch school districts.
- This resource is part of a larger collection of reading strategy products, so you can provide a consistent instructional approach that your students quickly learn and understand the expectations and routines for. Learn more about this collection here!
- It’s a huge time saver! Instead of hunting for background information on a reading strategy and then searching for resources to teach the strategy, this comprehensive resource includes all of the information and resources you need to teach a whole unit on this reading strategy.
- The student activities are a lot of fun for students, which helps create a productive learning environment where students are engaged and learning!
- It includes resources that provide a great way to create a home-school connection with students’ families and support parents/guardians in continuing student learning at home.
In closing, we hope you found this post about how to teach summarizing helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in this other post about elementary reading comprehension strategies.