Monday, July 7, 2014

Shrinking Summaries Writing Strategy

Summarizing is a very important reading and writing strategy for kids to learn, especially when working with non fiction.

Here are few things that my students work on developing throughout their year in 5th grade:
1.  Summaries should contain only the most important information.  We use the 5Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) as a guide for pulling out those most important things to focus on.
2.  Summaries should cut out unnecessary details.  Including too much information defeats the purpose of the summary.  All included info should be critical to the topic.
3.  Summaries should be written in your own words.  Plagiarism can be difficult to understand at 5th grade, but we work on originality and rewording.
4.  Summaries should be fact and not opinion.
5.  Summaries should contain a beginning, middle, and end, just like other forms of writing.

One strategy I use with my students to develop their summary writing is called Shrinking Summaries.  The idea is to write successively shorter summaries about the same topic, eventually reaching the most important information and identifying the main idea.

We put this strategy into use after reading the chapter in our religion textbooks about the Easter Season.  After our normal class discussion, I asked the kids to write a solid paragraph about what we had learned relating to Easter.  Their paragraph had to follow the five guidelines above, and it had to fit in half a page in their writing notebooks.
After completing that paragraph, the students were then handed a 3"x5" index card.  They had to take their first summary, cut out more information, and write a new summary paragraph containing only the most important details.  This was a challenge for some of them.
We attached their index card with a single piece of tape under the summary in their notebooks, flipped it up, and stuck a post it note underneath.  They then had to summarize the content in a single sentence.
Finally, under the post it note, the kids had to write a word or two that stated the main idea of all of the information.
Shrinking summaries!  A great notebooking activity to stretch students' writing skills.