How to Summarize a Story for First Grade

Certain strategies can be used to help first grade students understand the process of summarizing.
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Summarizing a basic story is an important goal in the first-grade classroom. At this grade level, students are expected to be able to describe characters, settings and major events in a story. In order to help students better understand the process of summarizing, including what information in the story is important enough to cover, certain proven strategies can be used.

1 The Retelling Glove

The retelling glove is helpful for students to understand what kind of information should be in their summary. For this strategy, each finger of a glove denotes one of the five Ws and one H: who, what, when, where, why and how. As the student summarizes the story, he will tick the corresponding finger down, understanding that when all fingers are lowered, the summary is complete.

2 Story Board

This strategy is effective to teach students that when summarizing a story, the events must be in order. Give the student a story board, which looks like a blank comic strip, and have him draw pictures to represent the main events in the story. Sentences can then be added to the pictures to engage students in the creation of a written summary.

3 Fist Lists

Fist lists work much like the retelling glove. The goal of this strategy is to get students to recognize the important details in a story. Many students have the habit of trying to incorporate insignificant details into their summary, cluttering up an otherwise effective summation. To help curb this habit, the fist list can be employed. Students begin with all five fingers up. Each time they tell an event from the story, one finger must go down. When all fingers are down, the summary is over. The student must then decide if anything important was neglected at the end of the summary. If so, it's time to weed out the unimportant details.

4 Information Pyramids

Information pyramids are wonderful graphic organizers that are very helpful in summarizing nonfiction texts. The pyramid starts at the top of the page with one blank. On the blank, the student writes the topic of the text. Underneath are two blanks. On each of those, the student writes two words that describe the topic. Below are three blank lines. On those, the student reveals the main idea in no more than three words.The bottom of the pyramid is made up of four blank lines on which the student writes a four-word phrase that supports the main idea. For example: Monkeys furry funny much like humans baby monkeys suck thumb

Alicia Anthony is a seasoned educator with more than 10 years classroom experience in the K-12 setting. She holds a Master of Education in literacy curriculum and instruction and a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She is completing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing: fiction, and working on a novel.