Summarizing is a basic skill that children will use throughout their lives. The basic summary retells the main ideas and details of a passage or article. Here are some tips and resources for teaching kids how to summarize.
Main Idea and Details
Understanding main idea is the first step to writing a summary. Practice reading short articles with your students or children and then highlight the main idea. Explain to students that they have ten to fifteen words to tell someone what they just read. Have them write down what they would say and read it to a partner. Then, model to the students an example of a main idea. The main idea should be written as a topic sentence. The topic sentence is the defining sentence that sums up the most important idea of a selection.
After the topic sentence comes the details. The details should support the topic sentence. Try using some of these practice pages from ethemes.missouri.edu to help your students with main idea and details. After all, it is important for them to understand the concepts before they try to write a summary of their own. Use this short multiple choice worksheet from superteacherworksheets.com to check for understanding.
Writing it in Your Own Words
Summaries should be written in students’ own words. Explain to students that they should never copy entire sentences or long phrases when writing a summary. Use this how to summarize and paraphrase practice sheet from freeology.com. Writing in your own words is the first step towards preventing students from accidental plagiarism.
Graphic organizers are vital for helping children write summaries. Try this PDF graphic organizer from superteacherworksheets.com. Here’s another fun fish graphic organizer from scholastic.com that focuses on main idea and details to write the summary. Finally, some may like a five Ws organizer to help them write about the key parts of an article. Try this one from thinkport.org.
Writing the Summary
After students have practiced identifying main ideas, writing topic sentences and finding important details, they are ready to write a summary. Choose short articles and passages to summarize. I always tell my students that their summary should be about five sentences long. Students should use a graphic organizer to help plan their summary. After using the graphic organizer, students can write their summary.
Transition words help with the flow and direction of a paragraph. Some transition words to use in a summary include next, also, likewise, in addition and finally. After students have mastered writing the basic summary, work on using transition words within summaries they have already written.
A Final Note
Do not overwhelm students, who are first learning how to summarize, with boring or lengthy articles. Try selections from Time for Kids, other kid geared magazines or interesting reproducibles.