The Best Way to Teach Summary Writing

Summary writing can be a tricky business. After all, boiling down an article or story into just a few sentences takes ninja skills. But it’s a skill well worth mastering, especially for middle school students.

That’s why it’s important to teach summary writing in a fun and memorable way that makes sense for kids.

I’ll show you some tricks that work for my kids.

Getting Started with Summary Writing

1- Use graphic organizers.

2- Make sure kids understand that summarizing means they have to take important information from a text, shorten it, and rewrite it.

3- Use a memorable technique that’s based on the specific genre kids have to summarize. That will help kids learn to focus on what’s important in each type of writing.

Most importantly, the best way to teach summary writing is to teach students that the information they include will depend on the text’s genre.

Use GIST for Newspaper Article Summary Writing

GIST, or central idea, is a summarization technique I teach students to use when they’re summarizing an expository text, such as a newspaper article or any text about an event.

GIST Steps for Students to Follow:

  • Read the passage and then skim it, underlining the following: who, what, where, when, why, and how.
  • Fill out a GIST graphic organizer that looks like the one below.
  • Organize those ideas to write a summary that includes the title, author, topic, and important details.
  • Voila! A mini version of the longer article!

Use iPop for Expository Texts & Biographical Summaries

iPop stands for Important Points Only, Please. It works best for teaching students to summarize expository texts that explain, describe, or are biographical.

iPop Steps:

  • Read the passage and then skim it, underlining important details.
  • Organize the ideas in order of importance or in chronological order, using a graphic organizer like the one below.
  • Write a summary that includes the title, author, topic, and those important ideas.

For some reason, I can tell kids what to do and they’ll forget an hour later. But give them a cool graphic organizer that looks like their favorite technology and they magically know what to do.

Go figure.

So I suppose iPop works because it’s simple and the acronym is easy for kids to remember.

And because the graphic organizer is a phone. lol

Use Planning Petals for Narrative Summaries

A narrative text tells a story that can be true or fictional. In order to write an effective summary of a narrative, kids should focus on identifying the parts of the story: setting, characters – real or fictional- conflict, climax, and resolution.

Try giving them a five-petal flower, with each petal representing an important story element.

Planning Petal Steps for Narratives

  • Read the passage for understanding.
  • Skim the narrative and fill out a graphic organizer with the characters, setting, conflict, climax, and resolution.
  • Write a summary that includes the title, author, and the key narrative elements.

At first I tried using a 5 point star for this. But who can fit words into those little points? If your handwriting is so neat you can do it, please keep it to yourself, thank you.

Oops. My handwriting inferiority complex is showing.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Do yourself a favor and find some interesting reading passages. If the practice passages are fun and engaging, kids will want to learn and practice this essential skill. Good luck!

The first “article” I use to teach summary writing is about an intergalactic dog show, and its winner, a two-tailed poodle mix who will talk anyone’s ear off.

The kids love it. And I love that they remember how to summarize!

If you’d like a READY-TO-GO summarizing teaching unit, click on one of the images above or click HERE.

Good luck!