How to Summarize a Passage With One-Sentence Summary Frames

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Summarization is one of the most difficult aspects of reading to master. Students will often get to the end of a passage and not even be able to explain the reading in a concise, logical manner. With some training and the use of one-sentence summary frames, readers can quickly and accurately summarize passages by paragraph. The wording of the frames can easily be remembered to use for each category a main-idea sentence would fall into.

1 Locate a passage

Locate a passage of reasonable length to practice the one-sentence summary technique. Ideally, students who are learning to use this technique should start with passages of one or two paragraphs. As they progress and become more proficient with the use of summary frames, the passages will need to become lengthier.

2 Read through the passage

Read through the passage slowly and underline or write down the keywords. Try to have no more than 10 keywords for each paragraph.

3 Decide whether the main idea

Decide whether the main idea of the paragraph is description/definition, problem/solution, compare/contrast, sequence or cause/effect.

Choose the appropriate frame to correlate with the category of main idea for the paragraph. Plug the keywords into the frame so it reads as a comprehensible sentence that is a summary of the paragraph. If the main idea of the paragraph is description/definition, use the frame "A is a kind of that_ ." If the main idea of the paragraph is problem/solution, use the frame " _ wanted but * so * ." If the main idea of the paragraph is compare/contrast, use the frame "X and Y are similar in that they both , but X , while Y_ .", If the main idea of the paragraph is sequence use the frame " _ begins with , continues with and ends with ** ." If the main idea of the paragraph is cause/effect, use the frame " happens because_ ** ."

Reread each summary sentence after completing the plug-in task. For longer passages, your final product should be a summary of the entire passage that flows directly with the original passage.

  • Model this technique several times before expecting students to be able to use it on their own.

Lisa Myers has been writing professionally since 1999, when her work appeared on She is an educator and she writes on various subjects but is most passionate about social and cultural concerns. Myers earned her Bachelor of Science in business management from West Virginia University Institute of Technology.