Summarizing Strategies

Summarizing Strategies - Teaching Ideas + Free Printable ResourcesTeaching students to summarize text can be one of the most difficult skills you tackle the during this school year. This post offers six summarizing strategies to try. It also contains some general rules for students to follow as well as stem questions to look for on tests.

Be sure to download the free printable resources to teach summarizing strategies. The link can be found at the bottom of the post. 

General Summarizing Rules

Summarizing Questions Anchor Chart

  • Highlight topic sentences.
  • Cross out information that is not necessary to understanding the passage.
  • Cross out repeated information.
  • In the margin of the piece write categories for lists. For example, baseball, football, soccer are sports.

 Summarizing Strategies


Strategy #1 Who, What, Where, Why, and How

Who? What?When? Where? Why? and How? Strategy and Printable

  • Who is the primary person/character?

  • What is the most important event or detail? What caused the event to occur?

  • When did this event take place?

  • Where did it happen?

  • Why did it happen? Why did it develop the way it did?

  • How is this important? OR How is the problem solved? OR How does this affect those involved?

 Strategy #2 Somebody Wanted Because But So

Somebody Wanted But So Summarizing Strategy

Somebody the main character or group of people
Wanted/Because main events
But conflict or problem


resolution or solution to the problem

 Strategy #3 GIST Summaries
(Generating Interaction between Schemata and Text)

  1. Divide the text into 4 to 5 sections.
  2. Read one section at a time, stopping to write a who, what, where, when, why, how statement for the section. 
  3. Repeat with each section until the entire text is read.
  4. When all sections are completed, students use their statements to generate a longer summary of the text.

 Strategy #4 Webbing

Check out this blog post with printable teaching materials to give Semantic Mapping a try.

 Strategy #5 Two-Column Notes

When using Two-Column Notes, a piece of paper is folded in half forming two columns. The left-hand column is used for outlining the text using broad concepts such as headings and subheadings. The right-hand column is used for supporting details.

 Strategy #6 Jigsaw Reading

A text is divided into numbered sections. The class is then numbered with the corresponding numbers. All #1’s form a small group, #2’s form a group, and so on. Members of the small groups read and discuss their assigned section of the text making sure everyone in the group understands the piece well enough to explain it to someone else.

The class then regroups. This time each group contains one #1, one #2, one #3, one #4, and so on. Each member of the new group tells the others in turn about his/her studied section of the text. Basically, the students become teachers explaining the material in the segment that had been read and discussed with the first group to the members of the second group.

Stem Questions for Writing Summaries

Here are a series of questions and instructions you might ask students to help them know that a summary is what they are asked to do:

  • Write a summary.
  • Get to the heart of the matter.
  • Write the key concepts, ideas, or phrases.
  • Sum up the information.
  • What is the gist of the article?

Get the free printable for summarizing strategies.

Check out these additional resources for summarizing.

Using Animated Shorts to Teach Summarizing – Free printables help students evaluate the animated short.

Learning Log – A Teaching Strategy – This post includes handouts of a $2 Summary, 3-2-1 Strategy, and Square, Triangles, Circle.

Inverted Pyramid Story – This post includes four nonfiction text printables for students to find the the main points (Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?) in the opening paragraph or two.

Gay Miller


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1 comment

    • Hayden on June 10, 2015 at 11:25 am

    This article and many other on your website are very interesting.

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