Home : Literacy : Comprehension Strategies : Summarizing Strategies

Here is a simple organizer to help your student's review author, teacher, and student purpose while having them figure out the main idea of the passage. 

Here are the directions:
  1. Have your students look at the title, subtitles, repeated references, etc. and figure out the topic.
  2. Explain to the students that the author writes an article or text with a purpose which they will try to figure out as they read the text (or you will give them the purpose beforehand depending on their level)
  3. Explain to the students what your purpose is for the lesson - they need to know this because it may be different from the author's purpose.
  4. Explain to the students that they also have a purpose too...
  5. Students complete your lecture - taking notes, or read the article/text - taking notes and jotting down the important details they learn about the topic.
  6. Students think about the author's purpose and the details they have read and come up with the MAIN IDEA of the whole section.

Evolving Main Idea Three Column Notes

Steps to follow:

  1. Put 3 columns on the board – Main Idea/Summaries/Details
  2. Have students look at the title and create a main idea (this may change through the process)
  3. Read the 1st paragraph aloud and take notes together in the details column (keywords, phrases, examples)
  4. Use notes to write a one sentence summary for the middle column
  5. Connect the summary with arrows back to the main idea
  6. Repeat the process with next paragraphs/ different sections - each time having the students think "What is the main idea of this WHOLE section?" not just each paragraph
  7. After the students have completed the article/text, have them take their summary sentences and use to write a paragraph summarizing what the article was mostly about.

GIST:  Generating Interactions between Schemata and Text 9/21/10

Here is a strategy designed to improve student's comprehension of text material and to enhance their ability to write a summary paragraph!

  1. Choose a 3-5 paragraph passage from your content area text.  Display it on the projector or SMARTboard for the students to see.
  2. Divide your students into small groups (4-6) and show the students only the 1st paragraph of the passage.
  3. Ask the students to read the 1st paragraph silently and independently write a summary of the paragraph in 25 words or fewer.
  4. Remind students to use as many of their own words as possible.
  5. Have students share their summary with their groups and pool together their ideas and write one summary paragraph based on their group's ideas.
  6. Using student suggestions, write a class summary for the 1st paragraph.
  7. Show students the 2nd paragraph on the projector and again have the students write a summary (25 words or fewer). BUT this time the student's summary paragraph should include information from both the 1st and the 2nd paragraph.
Continue this process until all of the paragraphs are incorporated into a GIST summary (25 words or fewer)


Students pair up to read a text. Partners switch off reading and responding to the text verbally with each other. One reads a few paragraphs and the other comments reviewing what they have learned and what they think about it.  Then students switch roles.  Repeat throughout the text.  Students write a response or share out what they learned with the class afterwards.  (See attached student sheets)

Magnet Summaries

Here is a simple tool to help your students think about the main idea and important details as they read and then summarize what they have read in one sentence.

Purpose for using it:
  To help students see the important concepts in a large quantity of information, allowing them to summarize a text.
Here are the steps they should follow:
  1. Look for a key terms or concepts in your reading that are connected to the main idea(magnet word - which was given to you in the middle of the notecard/box).
  2. Write down all of the terms and ideas that are connected with that magnet word around the word just like the image below.
  3. Organize and summarize the information surrounding your magnet word and then write a single sentence that summarizes all of that information. The magnet word should occupy a central place in the sentence. Omit unimportant details from the sentence.

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