Summarizing is an important skill that students need in order to demonstrate their reading comprehension. The 5Ws and How Summary strategy provides students with a format to focus on the key ideas from an article that should be included in a summary, and then incorporate those ideas into a written summary of the text. The strategy applies to all content areas, and once students learn how to use it, it is natural for students to transfer the skill to other classes and contents.
Teacher Preparation and Planning:
Choose two Newsela articles or a Text Set that are related to the current unit of study. One article will be used for the teacher to model the 5Ws and How Summary Strategy process, and another article will be used for student practice.
Develop an anchor chart with the students that lists the 5Ws and How along with key ideas about each. A sample anchor chart has been included in the resources below.
Newsela PRO users may want to modify the Write Prompt as follows: Write your 5Ws and How Summary. Be sure to refer to your Newsela Annotations and/or graphic organizer as you write your summary.
Review the 5Ws and How words and questions using the anchor chart.
Model reading one of the selected articles with the class, and stop periodically to do a think-aloud. Highlight or annotate the article each time information related to a 5W word or how appears, or fill in a 5Ws and How chart as a class. A sample graphic organizer is included in the resources below, as well as a completed example.
After completing the 5Ws and How chart, model how to write a summary with the class. Before doing this in the lesson, the teacher should think about the process involved in writing a summary and may choose to do a think-aloud while writing the summary with the class. Because students have a tendency to take each fact that they listed in the graphic organizer (or each detail that they highlighted) and write a sentence for each, the teacher should show how he/she considers all of the information from the graphic organizer and decides how to incorporate it into the summary. While there is not a set formula for writing a summary, consider something like the one below. Also, there is an example summary at the bottom of the completed example of the 5Ws and How Summary Graphic Organizer that is linked in the resources below.
Sentence 1: an overview of the "what" as well as the "when" and "where"
Sentence 2 (and maybe Sentence 3): the "who" and more of the "what"
Several more sentences: explaining the "why" and the "how"
Assign the same Newsela article or Text Set to each student for independent practice. When creating the assignment, the teacher should decide whether to provide it at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student or to adjust the reading level to a particular grade for all students.
Have students read the Newsela article, and take note of the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How as they read as follows.
Newsela PRO users may ask their students to highlight anything that is part of the who, what, when, where, why, or how through Newsela Annotations. Mark the who in BLUE, the what in YELLOW, the when and where in GREEN, and the why and how in RED. Each time a student highlights something, he/she should make a note in the Annotations whether it is a who, what, when, where, why, or how. Sample Annotations are included in the resource section below.
Non-PRO users may ask their students to fill out the graphic organizer to keep track of the who, what, when, where, why, and how from the article. A sample graphic organizer (both a blank copy and a completed example) are included in the resource section below.
Refer back to the summary paragraph that the teacher wrote with the class initially in the Before Reading Implementation Steps. Provide copies of this summary to each student. Have them label the who, what, when, where, why, and how in the summary paragraph. They may then use this as a model when they write their own summaries.
Have students use the information from their graphic organizer or Newsela Annotations to write a summary of the article.
Newsela PRO users may have their students write the summary in the Write Prompt. The Write Prompt should be modified as follows: Write your 5Ws and How Summary. Be sure to refer to your Annotations and/or graphic organizer as you write your summary.
Non-PRO users should have their students write the summary in the space provided on the bottom of the graphic organizer.
After writing the summary, students should then label the who, what, when, where, why, and how in their summaries just like the class did with the model summary in step 1. They should then compare the two summaries. If students find that they were missing important details or that they wrote a sentence for each one of the question words, they should revise their paragraphs using the model summary as an example.
Pair students who read the same article to share their summaries with one another. Students may use the example feedback guide that is linked in the resources below to help focus their feedback for their peers.
Students may then revise their summaries based on the feedback that they receive or if they find that they left something important out.
Text Set Title: Earth Sciences: Natural Hazards
Text Set Title: Historical Thinking: 20th Century U.S. History & Beyond
Text Set Title: A Mile in Our Shoes: People with Disabilities
Writing a summary can be a difficult activity for students. Having the time to talk through a summary orally can help students better understand and organize their thoughts, making the task of writing the summary much more manageable for some students. Consider including these steps before having students write their summaries independently.
Pair students so that partners read different articles.
Students should share one word (or phrase) that tells what the article is about. They should then tell their partners in one sentence what the author says about the topic. This will help students give a very broad summary of the article.
Have students then share only the most important details from the article with their partners. They may refer to their Annotations or graphic organizers to do this, but these details should be in the student's own words. Partners may take notes or could fill out a blank graphic organizer as they listen. They should share what they wrote down from the oral retelling and may ask questions if there are things that they did not understand. The partners should have a conversation about what they notice, and the student may then feel more prepared and more confident, as he/she is now ready to write a summary.
Journalists often use the 5Ws and a How strategy to write news articles. Consider this additional step for students to apply what they have learned through the activity to write their own news articles.
Students could use the 5Ws and How Summary graphic organizer as prewriting to plan their own news articles.
Have students write their articles using the completed graphic organizer as well as a Newsela Article as a model for writing.
Students should share their articles with a peer. Peers could give one another feedback or could even fill in the graphic organizer while reading to see if the author kept the focus on the intended information.
Using Newsela allows students to read articles at their own reading levels without missing out on key content. Reading articles at a "just right" level as well as the modifications below support EL students to build their language acquisition skills.
EL students will likely need support writing their summaries. Consider giving them the summarizing guide that is linked in the resources below for support. The first page offers a frame for the summary, and the second page includes some useful sentence stems.
Students with disabilities related to reading comprehension and processing are able to access key content at their own reading levels by using Newsela. Reading articles at a “just right” level as well as the modifications below support students with disabilities in their learning.
Students with disabilities related to written expression or focus may benefit from the summarizing guide that is linked in the resources below. The first page offers a frame for the summary, and the second page includes some useful sentence stems.
Summarizing is a great way for students to reflect on their reading and demonstrate their comprehension. You may want to encourage students to use this strategy after they read a chapter in Social Studies, a story in Language Arts, an article in Science, or whatever else they may read. Taking some time after reading to summarize can really help students remember and think more deeply about what they read.
Many students struggle to summarize their reading and include a lot more details than necessary. Using the 5Ws and How Summary Strategy can help students focus on the most important information. You may still have students who are too detailed - including, for example, every little thing that was mentioned in the article as part of the "what." Consider limiting those students by telling them that they can include three things in the "what" section, one item each for "when" and "where," etc.
Summarizing can be challenging for students as they work to determine which are the key ideas and details that need to be included in a summary and which are the supporting details that, while important, would not be part of a summary. When using this strategy with my students, some students required a lot more practice on writing a summary than others. This may be a strategy where you will need to provide additional small-group support to your students who are struggling. I found that the scaffolding and feedback that I could provide my students in a small-group setting were necessary for quite a few of my students.
Another idea to support students is to have them summarize a section of the article. You might also consider having the students lower the reading level of the article so that it is simpler and can help them focus more easily on the most important information.
The most challenging part about this strategy is for students to take the information from the graphic organizer (or the details that they highlighted) and turn them into a summary. Many students will likely write a sentence for each detail and call that a summary paragraph. I highly recommend that you take the time to write your own 5Ws and How Summary paragraph (or paragraphs) for an article before using this strategy with your students. Pay attention to your thought processes as you work, and share your thinking with your students.
In developing this strategy, the resource linked below from Smekens Educational Solutions, Inc.was consulted.