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How to Teach Summarizing Creatively

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Too often we try to teach children by forcing them into a standard concept like flash cards or workbooks without listening to their learning style, level of understanding or interests. It is often like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, and then we wonder why they aren’t getting it, and are rebelling. When we listen to their uniqueness we become great teachers, and help children to fulfill their purpose in life rather than our own. Besides, teaching becomes more fun, and and more rewarding when the child’s uniqueness is considered.

I know…”But I don’t have the time.” Actually it saves time.

There are several reading comprehension elements public schools are requiring of students today. In previous articles we explained Main Idea, Authors Purpose, and Supporting Details. Today’s article explains how to teach children to Summarize. I have more fun with this one in particular, as I will explain.

1. Begin by explaining to the student what summarizing means (adjusting to the child’s level of understanding of course): A summery is the skeleton of an article or event. It does not tell every single thing about the passage or happening, but covers all the main points in a shortened version. Remind them that a good summary does not inject their own ideas, but is much like a news report.

A good summary would include all the details necessary to take one from the problem to the solution. In a story it would include where, main characters, the important series of events, the main problem if presented (and how it is resolved). It would include the strongest part of the story.

2. Now give them something to summarize. It is most fun to take an enjoyable activity first. Examples would be a field trip, a trip to Sea World or Disney, a movie…anything that interests the student. I have even had an older student follow me and observe as I taught younger children. It is important to have them take notes as they observe the event. But you could try it with note taking one time, and without note taking to let the child compare the difference.

3. After the activity is over, instruct the student to write a summary of the event or activity using their notes. Once they have completed their article, have them share it with others who may have experienced the same event. Then encourage a discussion. Include younger children in this discussion because children learn tons from each other. It works like a magnet.

4. Check their article to make sure they have followed the guidelines expressed in number 1 above. Help them to make corrections were needed, but more importantly, point out their successes. Note: for younger children, I do not correct spelling or punctuation in this activity because it can be overwhelming, and defeat my purpose.

5. Once they have grasped the idea, have them do the same with short stories. Encourage them to underline or highlight important information (or take notes if you prefer) before they write their summary.

6. Next discuss with the child questions that would help other students pick out important points that would help them learn to summarize an article. Examples: Who is the story about? What did they want to do? What did they accomplish?

7. Where possible have them assist you teaching other children to summarize. We all learn more by teaching.

Note: work books are helpful, and perfectly OK to use at this point. But their teaching scope is limited. Be sure to involve the children, their interests and learning styles in your lesson plans. The rewards for you and your students become far greater.

8. A good book to learn about different learning styles and personalities is “Please Understand Me II” by David Keirsey.

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