Introduction to Summaries: A Whole-Class Discussion

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SWBAT listen to a class read-aloud and share ideas about what information is necessary when writing a summary.

Big Idea

Students start to differentiate between details and big points.


15 minutes

Students in my class understand that when someone asks or some direction tells them to summarize, that means that they tell some information, in order, about what happened in the book. However, they sometimes have a hard time understanding the difference between minor details and the main points of a story. In this lesson, I introduce the tier 2 words such as "conflict, climax, and solution" to support students in developing a summary.

I start by explaining to students that they are going to be listening to a read aloud. While they listen, they should be paying attention to the most important parts of the story because we will share out at the end.

I read the story, stopping at important vocabulary words that describe the characters or setting and turning points in the story where students can make predictions. Right before the climax and solution, I ask students to make a prediction and turn to their table group to share what they think will happen. Whenever students share an idea out loud, I ask them, "What information from the story, helps you know that?" so that they understand that it is expected that they use details from the text to support their ideas.

For this lesson, I chose a folktale from the Vietnamese culture, The Hundred-Knot Bamboo Tree. However, any short fiction story could work.

Class Discussion

10 minutes

After the class read-aloud, I remind the students that our goal for today is to determine what information is necessary to include in a summary of the story.

Students should start to think about what "summary" means or what they know about summaries. I ask them to share out loud with their partners next to them or in their groups. They need to think and then share so they get an opportunity to hear other students' ideas and hopefully stimulate their thinking and memory of any previous learning they have had about summaries.

A few students share any important things the class should remember when writing or telling a summary. Students share that summaries do not include all of the details, that they are told in order of things happening in the story and that there are important things to include like the characters and what happened. 

The students thought it was important to include main characters and adjectives that describe them. So, we took a few notes on those characters.

After thanking them for sharing, I explain that summaries of fictional stories are typically told or written by including key pieces of information. Those pieces are the "conflict", "climax", and "solution". I define each one. "Conflict" is the problem that the main character has at the beginning of the story. "Climax" is usually an exciting part where the character begins to figure out how they are going to solve the problem. However, the problem is not quite solved yet. "Solution" is when the problem is solved or the "conflict" is resolved.

Using the document camera, I model the format for taking notes by including a title and headings.

Students share ideas about each element, one at a time. First, they share about the problem of the story. I may only need to ask one student and then ask the class if they agree. Sometimes, a called on student only gives part of the information and then I call on another student to complete the idea. When I have a complete idea for what the conflict is, I write it down in the journal and ask students to copy it. 

This process continues so that students share ideas for the "climax" and "solution". Before I write it down, I ask a student to state it as a complete sentence and then copy their words. I explain that if and when students are doing this on their own, they should first think of what they want to write and how they want to write it before writing it down as a complete sentence.

Finally, when we have all 3 parts written down, I explain that if we did this right, our notes should make sense and include the important parts in a way that someone could understand it even if they never have read the story before.

I then read the notes out loud and ask the students if we have accomplished the task. If there are any parts missing, we can make a few corrections or additions. In this lesson, we successfully added everything we needed.