In high school and college, students will be asked to practice their summary skills in almost all of their classes -- from summarizing literature in English to scientific articles in biology. However, if your students have not learned how to summarize, this seemingly simple task can be a challenge, as many students write reflections or arguments stating their views instead of summarizing what the author has said. Requiring students to fill out summary templates for each chapter they read is a good way to help them improve their summary skills.
Write a sample introductory sentence with blanks where children can fill in specific information. Under or next to the blanks, include the information that students should give there.
For example: "In _ (chapter title in quotation marks), the _ st/th (chapter number) of the book ___ (book title in Italics) by _ (author's name), the author discusses ___ (main idea).
If children will be reading different types of books, like fiction books, biographies and textbooks, provide several different introduction templates and explain why students would need a different kind of intro for each book.
After the introductory sentence, place a text box on your document. Write the following instructions at the top of the box:
"In the previous step, you identified the chapter's main idea or action. Now, think about the major ways the author discussed that main idea or argued for that main idea. List three to five ways in the list below."
In the text box, provide a numbered list of 1 to 5. If students are writing summaries of fiction, revise the directions to ask for elements of the main event.
Place five more text boxes after the one you created in Step 2. Ask students to use the text boxes to describe only the most important components of the elements they listed in Step 2. Keep the boxes purposefully small; this will encourage your students to write concisely, a requirement of summary writing.
Insert in your document a small glossary of concluding transitions, such as "Thus," "in conclusion," "overall" and "in summary" as well as what each signifies. Ask students to choose one.
Write a sample concluding sentence the way you wrote the introductory sentence, with blanks and the item that should be placed in the blank in parenthesis next to the blank. For example:
"_ (concluding transition from box above), Chapter __ (chapter number), entitled ___ (chapter title in quotations) from the book__ (book title in italics) primarily _ (verb explaining what the chapter did: explained, discussed, etc.) ____ (main idea), ____ (statement about the entire book, such as "furthering the author's conservative viewpoint as established in the first chapter)."
- Provide specific summary templates, as well as examples of summaries, for the different types of literature that your students will be writing, such as fiction, poetry, scholarly book, biography or pop culture.
- Explain to students that the template is to be used to help them get started in their summaries, but that after they have a working draft, they should move to make the summaries their own by adding information or changing sentence structure.
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