Keyword Summaries

Hey Everyone, I’m back! Today I have an activity I’d like to share. I didn’t make this up – does anyone actually make things up anymore? I have probably modified it a little, but that’s it. This is a good way to teach students to write summaries without just copying the thing they are summarizing. In the student work I’m going to show you here, we were doing a unit on the Titanic. The assignment was to read an article about it and write a summary. In retrospect, I would slow it down and spend more time building into the assignment. Still, it worked fairly well and has huge potential, I believe.  Here goes:

First,  I show them how to make a shutterfold with a piece of construction paper. The cute squiggly line is so you can see the edges of the paper in this photo.


On the inside you do this:


First, attach the article to the center section of the construction paper. On the left shutter, write “Keywords” and on the right, “Summary.” Next, working together, everyone numbers the paragraphs of the article or story. Once you have done this, go through and have them all read the first couple of words of each paragraph to make sure that everyone has numbered the same places. Then number the keywords shutter with the same numbers as there are paragraphs in the article. (Wow a picture really is worth a thousand words. Or a hundred.)

Next, have the students read the first paragraph of the article. (Or you read it to them, or they read with a partner or outloud – whatever works best with your students. With mine, we would do some outloud reading, if I really want them to read it.) Help them find three to five words that are critical to the meaning of the paragraph. The number of words they find depends on the length of the paragraph, but they should not copy a single sentence. Only key words. Do this for as many paragraphs as you feel they need your support, but eventually turn them loose to do some with a partner, and then alone. (Gradual release, yeah.)

Once they have key words for each paragraph, have them turn the shutterfold paper inside out, like this:


This is clearly a work in progress.

This puts the keywords on one side, and their summary right next to them, and the article is not visible. They then, without looking back at the article, write what they remember, using their keywords to jog their memory. Once they have done a draft of the summary on the shutters, you can have them do a more complete summary on a full sheet of paper. They can then affix that on top of the original article, inside the shutter fold.

I didn’t have my students decorate the outside folds of this project, as I just wanted to focus on the summarizing activity, but they certainly wanted to decorate it, and doing so would be a nice completion of the project, and could be a good way of further showing their understanding of the text.

You can see from the example above, that my student is an English learner, and that he or she could have used more support than I gave. At the beginning, when I was working with them, it is pretty clear that they understood what they read, but later not so much.  In the future I will use a close reading strategy with the article before doing this keyword strategy, to make sure that the student has a better understanding of the text before they try to summarize it.

I hope you’ll try this, and let me know how you modify it to make it work better for your students. Enjoy your day.



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