Summarizing Goal Ideas
- NAME will identify the main idea and details of a given picture or picture scene in 4 out of 5 opportunities when given a familiar visual and 2 verbal prompts.
- NAME will retell the main points of a short text in 2 out of 3 opportunities given a familiar graphic organizer.
- Given a short text and a familiar graphic organizer, NAME will summarize the main points of the text in 3 out of 5 opportunities when provided with minimal adult support.
- After reading a short passage, NAME will determine the main idea and explain how it is supported by key details in 80% of opportunities given a visual and/or graphic organizer.
- Given multi-paragraph, non-fiction text from her curriculum and a graphic organizer, NAME will summarize the text in her own words to demonstrate comprehension without adult support in 70% of opportunities.
Read more about my goals here.
Teaching Main Idea + Details to Summarize
Like I mentioned above, the skill of summarizing a text requires many foundational language skills. This means that if your students are getting stuck, back it up and make sure they have enough foundational language skills to do this type of advanced language work.
Summaries of informational text typically rely on identifying the main idea and the supporting details (unlike summaries of narratives which often use a somebody-wanted-but-so-then structure).
If students are having trouble understanding the concept of the “main idea”, I will introduce the idea using objects or real pictures.
For example, I might show this picture of me and my dog and discuss. 💬 Is the main idea of this picture “tree” or “jacket”? No, those are just details in the picture. The main idea is that I took my dog for a walk on a snowy, winter day.
It typically doesn’t take long for my students to understand the concept when I scaffold it in this way. Then, we start applying it to texts.
Breaking a text up into smaller sections, making sure you understand each section, and then seeing what all of the sections have in common… that’s how to find the main idea.
If your students need a little extra help remembering what they’ve read and breaking it down, check out the “Sketch and Speak” strategy research article linked towards the bottom of this page.
It teaches 3 steps for deepening comprehension of expository texts: note an idea simply (through little sketches), say it fully (out loud), and then say it again (Ukrainetz, 2018).
One foundational skill to make sure your students understand, especially if they’re getting a little stuck working on main idea, is Text Structure.
Understanding different text structures helps your students see connections between the ideas in the text and choose an appropriate sentence structure to summarize the information.
Last, sometimes it is helpful to explicitly teach how much information a main idea includes.
To illustrate this, I like to show a piece of paper next to a large index card next to a regular sized index card. This shows my students how you should provide less and less information for each type of task.
Summarizing in Context
Last, after all of this direct teaching and practice, we work on generalization to other articles (like those on ReadWorks) and classroom work.
When working on generalization, I have my students follow the same process (often with a visual). We ‘look ahead’, then we break the text up (by circling paragraphs or literally cutting the piece of paper apart), read it, answer questions about it, find the main idea, and summarize it.
Want more contextualized therapy ideas and units? Check out my themed and story units below!