Thursday, October 14, 2010

Summarizing Stories

Today, I worked with the reading strategy of summarizing. I used the Elephant and Piggie book Are You Ready to Play Outside? to model writing a summary. (I wrote about using Elephant and Piggie books for summarizing last May...this year, I decided to start early!) This book is very easy to read, but it makes a great quick introduction to writing a summary. Students can have success very quickly and write a great summary in just a few sentences.

Because, in summarizing, I've found that early success is key. If readers get mired in a summary of a text that is too difficult, they'll be tempted to use unproductive strategies, such as copy and delete. Even worse, they might decide to summarize only a part of the text instead of attacking the entire thing. A good summary of a text that is below a student's reading level is better than a poor summary of a harder text.

With Are You Ready to Play Outside, we read a few pages, and then put the action into a sentence. Students sat on the carpet with their notebooks and wrote along with me. For each part, I suggested a word that they could use--greet, unfortunately, however, until, finally. Some students used these words, while others branched out on their own.

"What did you learn about summarizing?" I asked students. One said, "I found out that we don't have to include everything. Which is hard, because there are sometimes funny bits that we want to put in." How true! Another student said, "There are different ways to say things." And, of course, someone had to add, "Elephants do make good friends." Which is definitely true!

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