Sunday, January 10, 2016

Summarizing Fun!

Being able to summarize is such an important skill--but getting kids to focus just on the important ideas can be quite an undertaking.  Kids love to retell, in every glorious detail!  For them, everything seems important--and let's be honest, it was to us when we were younger too!  Age and life experience has a way of crystallizing importance--but as a kid, when everything is brand new and exciting, every little thing seems significant.

Over the years, I have tried a variety of techniques to help my students learn the difference between summarizing and retelling.  We worked hard to determine what was the main idea and what was simply a detail.  We have sorted, discussed, cut things apart, made charts, completed graphic organizers, etc.  First, next, then, finally.  Two sentence summaries.  For some kids, these techniques were very successful--but I still had many who had two sentence summaries that were at least 8 solid sentences long (which led to another lesson on the run-on sentence)  or who included details that were important to them, but not to the story.  

And then, I discovered the "12 word summary."  I can't recall where I learned about this technique--so I am unable to give credit where credit is due--but it has been quite a game changer in my classroom.  First of all, I don't use it all the time, because it is challenging.  But when I do break it out, the kids get excited--they view it as fun and "easy" because it is only 12 words.   Little do they know, they are working hard to get the chapter down to just 12 words--exactly 12 words (or 10 or 13--12 is not a magic number--it is just reasonable.)  They have to grapple with the most important ideas and work with their writing skills to be able to communicate in a complete sentence, or two.  

Here are two recent examples from a novel we are reading:

Give it a try--you might be pleasantly surprised.  :)