Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Summarizing Informational Texts: Using Main Ideas!

For the past few weeks, my job as a literacy coach has taken me into classrooms to support kids who are in need of some extra reading intervention. In the past, the model has been to pull these students out of the classroom, but the ore we pull kids out, the less they know what's going on, and they're often missing something important in the room. 

I have been working with kids in third, fourth, and fifth grade, and have really enjoyed it. It made me miss the classroom (for the most part!). 

After speaking with the teacher about what the students needed support in, we settled on some lessons about summarizing nonfiction. This is a difficult strategy for many students to apply. It requires them to identify the topic and then use that to determine what is important in each section of the text. Then we combine those important ideas into a complete summary. Here's what we did:

 We started out with a short text that I found at Readworks.org. There are lots of great passages about all different topics, in fiction and expository format on Readworks. And it's free!

I used a blank thinking guide from Fisher Reyna Education to help us focus on the topic, main idea of the article, and the main ideas of each paragraph.

First we previewed the text including the title, subtitle, and any images or nonfiction features. We made a prediction based on this evidence, and we read through the article once to confirm or adjust our predictions.

After we read through once, we discussed the topic of the article and recorded it on our sheets. We then read through one paragraph at a time to identify the main idea of each paragraph. To help students do this, I ask them to notice repeated ideas and to identify what idea is supported in all the sentences of a paragraph, or what the sentences have in common.


Once we had identified each main idea, we decided to bundle them. We read through paragraphs one and two and identified the common idea in both of them. Then we left paragraph three by itself, combined four and five into one main idea, and combined six and seven into another. We wrote a few words to identify what bundles we had made.


Students had been practicing writing open-ended summaries for weeks, so I thought I'd try a scaffolded response by providing some choices. I wrote four different versions of a summary for the article. One was complete and accurately represented all of the main ideas we identified. The others were either missing an important piece and overly represented a small detail, or misrepresented some information in the article.


On each choice, the students identified which main ideas were represented and which pieces were omitted. After they evaluated each one, they chose the summary that most accurately represented the important information in the article. 

For a whole class setting, I have provided each group with a different version of a summary and had the team evaluate it. Then they had to get up and present to the rest of the class to explain whether their summary was a great choice or a less-than-great choice.

I found that providing some answer choices for the kids to evaluate helped them make the connection to test-taking without having to do passage after passage! A simple activity like this at the end of a close reading could help kids practice this skill in an easy way.

To get the Thinking Guide and any other tools for helping students be successful through an understanding of genre, check out FisherReyna Education on TPT!

Pin It

0 comments:

Post a Comment