Strategies for Reading Comprehension


What Is Summarizing?
Summarizing is how we take larger selections of text and reduce them to their bare essentials: the gist, the key ideas, the main points that are worth noting and remembering. Webster's calls a summary the "general idea in brief form"; it's the distillation, condensation, or reduction of a larger work into its primary notions.

What Are We Doing When We Summarize?
We strip away the extra verbiage and extraneous examples. We focus on the heart of the matter. We try to find the key words and phrases that, when uttered later, still manage to capture the gist of what we've read. We are trying to capture the main ideas and the crucial details necessary for supporting them.

When You Ask Your Students to Summarize, What Usually Happens?

What Did You Want Them To Do?

How Can I Teach My Students to Summarize?
Please be warned: teaching summarizing is no small undertaking. It's one of the hardest strategies for students to grasp, and one of the hardest strategies for you to teach. You have to repeatedly model it and give your students ample time and opportunities to practice it. But it is such a valuable strategy and competency. Can you imagine your students succeeding in school without being able to break down content into manageable small succinct pieces? We ask students to summarize all the time, but we're terrible about teaching them good ways to do this!

Here are a few ideas; try one...try them all. But keep plugging away at summarizing. This strategy is truly about equipping your students to be lifelong learners.

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En Espanol (with thanks to Martha L. Andrade):



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