Writing Simple Summaries and Determining Main Idea

Reading

Writing Simple Summaries and Determining Main Idea

Posted on January 25, 2011

Writing Simple Summaries and Determining Main Idea

Some students struggle to summarize what they've read. They can tell you lots of specific details that were within the reading, but they can't explain the big idea, what the reading was all about. To work on summarization with her students, Kate Bieker at Willowcreek Middle School (Portage, IN), has developed two fantastic ideas.

  1. Students have to summarize their reading as if they were "tweeting" (writing a Twitter message) to a peer. Twitter only allows for 140 characters including spaces and punctuation. WOW! That's a concise summary. Students write out their Twitter summaries on paper, but they are conscious of their characters the entire time. This requires students to summarize the main idea of the reading, but it also gives them an authentic audience (a peer), connects to their love of anything digital, and answers the age-old student question: "How many sentences do we have to write?"
  2. After reading a passage, Kate gives her students each a 4x6 index card to write a summary. She allows them to write as much as they want. When they're done, she then gives each student a standard square sticky note (3x3). Without looking back at the reading, and with smaller space, students then rewrite their summaries utilizing only the most important details and information from their original 4x6 cards. Then, Kate provides each student with a single sentence-strip of paper (1x3). They have to revise their 3x3 sticky note summaries as single, main idea sentences on their final 1x3 sentence strips.

Love both of these ideas, Kate, especially for how they work for the language arts teacher and the content-area teacher and for nonfiction text and informational reading. Thanks for sharing!