Monday, January 14, 2013

Writing Summaries...

Seems simple RIGHT? Read a chapter, write a summary...

Our students see this a lot, whether it be on our reading assessments (good 'ol DRA2), in our own classrooms, or on our state assessments (although, last I looked, they were switching things up a bit saying things like "paraphrase" or "find the main idea." Well, which one is it? Let's keep it simple folks.)

Bottom line, we want our kids to be proficient (and feel confident) in taking out the important elements from a piece of text, both fiction and non-fiction. We want our zealous little readers to be able to get at the heart of the matter when writing summaries, and we want them to be able to do it in as few words as possible. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that our students need to be taught "HOW" to break down a larger piece of text into a short, brief, to the point summary. Piece of cake, right?! Oy...

So, here we are! I must say, our summary writing is most definitely a work in progress, but I am proud of the hard work my kids put in so far!
Here's what the beginning of our unit looked like: 

I broke this unit into two separate mini-units. One for fiction summary writing and another for non-fiction summary writing. This blog post will be entirely devoted to the beginning stages of our fiction summaries. 

I decided on a very specific format for writing our fiction summaries, the very popular “Someone, Wanted, But, So, Then”. This summarizing strategy comes from an older book titled; Responses to Literature. Good lord those authors were on to something! ;) Obviously since the whole problem-solution narrative format tends to be the easiest, being that my kids have so much background knowledge on it, I figured this would be a great place to start.

I have seen so many AWESOME organizers using this strategy all over the blog world, and I assure you teacher friends it's for a reason, because this little phrase is AMAZING! I found this FREE graphic organizer courtesy of One Happy Teacher. Click the picture below to check out her blog and to grab this freebie! 

I expanded the above graphic organizer onto our anchor chart to introduce this strategy to my students and to really drive home the ideas of summarizing fiction.

With the first lesson, we discussed narrative text vs. expository text, and more specifically discussed the narrative format of problem-solution. I did a very brief mini-lesson revisiting mentor texts that we had already used, to discuss the problem-solution structure of narratives. I discussed that narratives are “stories” and should be read as such. We discussed that it is important to pay attention to events in a story versus taking out facts when reading a non-fiction or expository text.

Here are the mentor texts we used: 

Click below to grab them:

Although the above books are great books to use for this unit, I did not use them for the purpose of summary writing. Instead, I chose a chapter out of our current read aloud: Among the Hidden by Margaret Haddix. I chose this because my kids’ biggest problem with writing fiction summaries is that they include irrelevant information. By choosing a chapter from a book that we are currently reading, a lot of the details are fresh in their minds and I can easily note where they're adding in extra or irrelevant details.

To start, I copied the chapter, passed it out, and gave each student a copy of the above graphic organizer. Some students felt confident enough to fill it out as we read, others needed my help. 

After reading the passage, we walked slowly through each of the steps below: 

First, we identified the character in relation to the problem of the text. I broke it down like this: The character that is “going through something” is the Someone

Second, we discussed that what the character wanted, or what their goal was, (in relation to the problem) is the Wanted

Next, we worked to figure out what the obstacle was that was getting in the way of the character reaching their goal, and identified this as the But. 

Then, we pulled out what the character did or how they reacted to the problem they were facing as the the So.

Lastly, we agreed on the solution to the problem or the outcome as the Then.

It was hard for some, but when I showed them how you could take those individual sticky notes and put them together to write a summary, they were pretty flabbergasted!  

I got a few, THAT'S IT? and WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE! comments. I was cracking up. Unfortunately my friends, this is just the beginning.

Questions I asked my readers today: What happens when the author does not use the format of problem-solution? What about when an author doesn't present the information in the exact order that the graphic organizer is laid out? What happens when the author doesn't come out and neatly provide the reader with any of the above information but instead uses figurative language or forces the reader to infer things like problems and solutions?

The above questions will be our next feat to tackle! But, until then, we are practicing, practicing, and practicing some more!

What are some tips and tricks you use for teaching higher level summary writing and non-fiction summary writing?

My latest Valentine product is UP FOR YOU TO GRAB: Valentine Coordinate Graphing Ordered Pairs {Mystery Pictures}. I made these with 5 pictures: 3 pictures in quadrant 1-4, and 2 pictures in quadrant 1.

The first 3 readers to leave me tips and tricks for summary writing, leave your email and I'll send you a free copy! I'll be adding my Valentine Math Centers, Activities and Games Pack next! Stay tuned...


Jennifer Findley said...

This is a great post! You are a fabulous blogger! You should see about publishing your ideas. You really have a way with words.

I also teach my kids the SWBST strategy but we also add a Finally onto it to sum up the story in one more final way.

For non-fiction, I teach my kids to find key words then turn the key words into a summary.

Teaching to Inspire in 5th

Kaitlyn said...

I use the same format as well, but I added a 'finally' to help my kids wrap up their thinking. I like to use picture books that I've read to them to do as a whole class lesson...I think they remember those the best!

:) Kaitlyn
Smiles and Sunshine

Kristen said...

I use a graphic organizer, but I think I like this one better! We also use stickies. We do a lot of summarizing in our responses to text :)

YoungTeacherLove said...

Thanks for your comments ladies, and for reading my blog!

I do like the "finally" idea and was thinking about adding this element in this week since my kids feel confident with what we've done thus far!

@Kristen- I should own a percentage of Post-Its since I use them so much. ;)

The coordinate mystery pictures are on the way!

Suzy Q said...

I think the key is doing it over and over, starting with smaller picture type books and then expanding into chapter books. Lots of modeling!

tokyoshoes (at) hotmail (dot) com

Ashley Kathleen said...

I just found that summarizing organizer last week and I LOVE it!! It's so helpful for my students, plus it allows them to start writing independently without saying "I don't know what to wriiiiite" (can you hear that voice in your head? lol) I love the chart you made to go with it! I may do that this week! =)

The Resource Room Teacher
I'm having a linky party!

YoungTeacherLove said...

Thanks so much for your comments ladies! You're right about going slow and modeling Suzy! It has gone VERY slow, but I am so happy I took so much time to model it with my kids, because it's paying off!

@Ashley- I can totally hear it! ;) Isn't this graphic organizer the best? Thank you for your comment!

Jackie and Danielle said...

Wow! It's seriously hard to believe that you're a "young" teacher. You have such great ideas... I don't think you need many tips or tricks! =) I absolutely love this way of summarizing!It makes it a lot easier for them to understand. My kids struggle with taking this type of organizer and then writing the summary. They are a few years younger than yours though, so I don't feel so bad. I'll just keep modeling, modeling, modeling. =) Keep up the amazing work!
Sister Teachers

RealOCteachers said...

I teach summarizing A LOT to my kiddos and really appreciate your thorough and informative post. I will definitely be trying these ideas.

The REAL Teachers of Orange County

YoungTeacherLove said...

@Jackie- That is the sweetest thing. I AM a young teacher (well...4th year now!) I appreciate your kind comments, they mean so much! My kids struggled SO much too in the beginning, but when I kept modeling and practicing with them day after day we had some MAJOR breakthroughs!

@RealOCteachers- THANK YOU! I teach it a lot as well. It really is a super important skill to have (though not always the easiest to teach!)

Janet Abercrombie said...

I had good luck teaching summary by having students find the 5Ws and H (who, [did] what, where, when, why, how).

I had much better luck when it became who, [wanted] what, where, when, why and how. The _wanted_ (as you have it) is critical to getting at the character's internal characteristics.

Teaching summary really gets students to the heart of a story :).

Sarah said...

So I've never used this format to teach summary writing, but I think all that will soon have to change. We usually spend time making flow maps and plot charts of the story to work on summarizing, but they do have trouble with pulling out unimportant details. Thanks for sharing this!

The Wild Rumpus said...

Kristine--We are living parallel lives (sort of). We're finishing up informational summarization and moving back into fiction, however. I won't lie--it was tricky! The 5th grade CCSS of finding more than one main idea & summarizing is open to all sorts of interpretation. It was good, but HARD. I am beyond thrilled to be returning to the familiar strategy you mention, and even more thrilled to see your example with Among the Hidden! I read it to my kids every year, and we refer back to it all year long. Thanks for sharing your chapter summarization work.

Melissa O'Bryan said...

We are preparing for DRA two assessments also. I also use the somebody, wanted, but, so, then, strategy. I swear by it! It helps the kids Get to the heart/Lesson learned of the story so much better than a listing of important events. Thanks for sharing your anchor charts! They are always super cute!

Jessica Berry said...

This is great! I just found your blog, and am glad I did! I am currently teaching resource room (mostly push-in, co-teaching) and it is amazing how many of the intermediates (4-6) cannot write a summary!

Profe Oxana said...

I will put this item in my wish list because here in Colombia teachers don´t teach how to sumarize. I´ts incredible that you will find college students who doesn´t know how to make a summary. We need to change that. Thanks!

Teacher's clipart blog

Jenny Kittle said...

I have been looking for something to help my kids grasp summarizing and this is perfect! Thanks so much. I can't stop buying your stuff at the TPT store!

YoungTeacherLove said...

Thanks Jenny! That's so kind of you! I'm so glad it helps! :)

Wendy said...

Thanks for the shout out about the graphic organizer! I love using this resource with my students. It helps them keep focused on a summary as opposed to a retelling!
One Happy Teacher

Vap12 said...

This is my first year teaching and I have a wonderful class of 5th graders. I have been struggling with how to mix up my reading lessons. Having them respond on Post-it's so that they can fill in a large anchor chart is awesome. Thanks for the great ideas!

Ashley Mothershed said...

Wow! This is an amazing blog! Super interesting, LOVE the set up! Have you thought about joining the yearly EduBlogs Challenge? It gives students and teachers a chance to check out other blogs! Some of the info is on our school blog! (:

Leah Schrader said...

I work with UClass, where you can share your lessons with the world. If you want to get these great ideas out there and get paid for them, apply here

jlbladow4304 said...

This is most helpful. I thought I had a great way of teaching fictional summary writing, but the more I try to clarify it for the students, the more I am struggling to define exactly how they should pick out only the most important information. I was using M+2D where M is the main event or idea and the 2D is two related details. The tricky part in fiction is picking out just one event from a chapter for your M. You could choose one every few pages, or one for the whole chapter. I guess that the fact that it changes relative to the length of the text that you need to summarize makes it difficult. (If I've read a 20 page chapter, how do I even start picking just one main event?)

I like the method you outlined here, and I want to play with it more for my own purposes before presenting it to my sixth graders. Thanks!

Lorna Russell said...

I used your graphic organiser today with my Year 5 class- they loved it! It made it so much easier to summarise. the text. Thank you
PS You may have noticed by my spelling that I am an Australian teacher from Melbourne.
I will be back for more inspiration! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! This is great!

Kerry Combs said...

This lesson went so well this week! Last year, summarizing was really tough for my kids because I used a different strategy that didn't help step them through the plot well. This year, I feel like I they produced great fiction summaries the FIRST time around. That's huge. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This helped ALOT thanks so much

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