Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Improving story summaries by summarizing dialogue

When it comes time to summarize stories, many intermediate readers just don't know what to do with the dialogue. They know that dialogue is important, and that it carries information. But they also know that they shouldn't include too much dialogue in a summary.

The great news is that teaching readers how to summarize dialogue is pretty fun. "Don't include dialogue in a summary" is easy to say. But what should readers do instead?

This is what we practice! Short, funny skits are the ideal tool for this.

Here is one that students read in small groups after they finished their passage-based essays. You can imagine the laughter that spread through the room as students progressed further into the script!

So then students perform the script, and we talk about how to summarize the dialogue. What happened? With imaginary rewind buttons we can have the performers repeat parts of the script as necessary--very fun--and we have been known to mute them on occasion.

A list of words to summarize dialogue is helpful. I love word lists in general because they are such an efficient way to build word knowledge quickly. Many readers will return to word lists weeks and months after a lesson to find just the right word for an activity.

If you have students struggling with summarizing stories, try spending some time on summarizing dialogue. You'll hear some interesting insights and have great conversations!

Summarizing Stories  includes more activities for summarizing dialogue, as well as the script and word list included here.

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