Sunday, March 22, 2009

Explicit Teaching of Summarization Improves Student Writing

I have tracked down a few suggestions for teaching summary writing. Educational research on writing strategies and our own Avon Maitland inquiry group questions indicate that many adolescents struggle when asked to summarize what they’ve read. Research also acknowledges that through the explicit teaching of summarization skills, we can improve student writing.

In Writing Next, Graham and Perin tell us to

[t]each adolescents strategies and procedures for summarizing reading material, as this improves their ability to concisely and accurately present this information in writing. Various online and print sources on summarization outline six basic rules.
  1. Delete trivial material.
  2. Delete repetitious material.
  3. Substitute a general term for a list of specific terms (collapse lists).
  4. Combine a list of actions into a broader, single action (integrate information).
  5. Select a topic sentence.
  6. Create a topic sentence.

Summary Skills in Grades 5, 7 and Beyond

According to Hahn and Garner, authors of Synthesis of Research on Students’ Ability to Summarize Text, by 5th and 7th grade students can work through rules one and two. Secondary school students can follow the rules up to rule five, but have difficulty with rule six, creating a topic sentence.

Mentor Texts

To help students build summary skills, teachers can use mentor texts. To do this, have students read short articles and corresponding summaries of those articles. When reviewing the summaries, students should identify where the six basic rules for summarization have been implemented. Students may also need time to practice each one of the six basic rules in smaller tasks as a way to scaffold learning.

Explicit Teaching

The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat recognizes that

there is a growing body of research and evidence-based findings that identify summarization as one of the essential skills that improves reading comprehension, writing proficiency and student achievement in general. The skill of summarization needs to be explicitly taught, in all subject areas in order
for students to effectively create and interpret increasingly complex texts.

Watch the a Podcast on Summary Writing – from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, January 2009

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