The All-Powerful Art of Summarizing

Sep 14, 2016

The art of summarizing is a lot harder than it sounds, but it's an essential part of the note-taking process...

Being able to effectively summarize information will help students expeditiously unpack their research to the reader.  

To this end, I'd like to share a few useful activities for teaching summary-writing with your scholars.

Tweet Your Summary

One way I manage to teach the art of conciseness is through a one-sentence summary-writing activity I developed, fashioned after my love for Twitter.  In 30 words or less (as opposed to 140 characters), students are asked to capture the essence of an article's main idea.  It really requires them to think critically about the content and creatively about expression.

(PostScript: the "News & Trends" mini-articles at the start of Upfront magazine are a great resource for this activity.)

Catalog Your Summaries

Another one of my favorite ways to practice summary writing throughout the year is by having students create a Summary/Source Card Catalog.  In its final product, this is a deck of index cards, bound together by a 1" binder ring, which is woven through a single hole punch made at the top-left corner of each card.  The cards feature summaries of the articles students have read during the school year and each article's source information (Pssst!  If you teach General Paper this tool turns into a 'content' study guide for the GP writing exam!)

Click here and access a sample lesson you can implement right now in your classroom... :-)

STEP ONE: Read the article linked in our Free Resource Library, called "Santa Barbara Oil Spill," with your classes, annotating important information as you go (jotting notes, making connections, noting questions).

Hack:  As a pre-test (and for comparison's sake), ask your students to draft a summary of the article on a scratch sheet of paper.  Later, once you share the model, they can go back through what they wrote to 'check their answers', so to speak, highlighting the pieces that align with the suggested response. 

STEP TWO:  View this Slideshare with your classes.


The Art of Summarizing - Summary/Source Cards by JIll Pavich

STEP THREE:  Distribute the Summary/Source card handout, a year-round reference sheet.  Assign a new article and have them create a Summary/Source card in partners, then eventually, on their own.

To access a student-friendly handout for setting up Summary/Source Cards, simply click on the handout image below.  

Summarize VS. Paraphrase VS Quotation

Compare the art of summarizing against its closest neighbor, the 'paraphrase', and its opposite, the 'direct quotation' by using this handout in the Free Resource Library to introduce these research/writing concepts with your students!

Join my mailing list and get access to a cache of helpful classroom resources!

Enjoy instruction!


Jill Pavich


Connect with me on Facebook or follow me on Instagram! See you there!


50% Complete

Ready to bust through the ceiling of your writers’ usual, classroom experience and never look back?!


Download this FREE project-based writing activity + get started TODAY!