Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve Student Learning

Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve Student Learning

Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve Student Learning

Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve Student Learning


Educators agree that the ability to summarize'to identify salient information and structure it for meaning, long-term retention, and successful application'is an essential academic skill. Research affirms summarization's reputation as a highly effective way to boost comprehension and achievement. We know summarization works. But isn't it, well, just a little dull?It doesn't have to be. Rick Wormeli, a teacher certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, makes the case that summarization is not only one of the most effective ways to improve student learning, it's also one of the most flexible, responsive, and engaging. Here, you'll find a classroom-tested collection of written, spoken, artistic, and kinesthetic summarization techniques for both individual assignments and group activities across the content areas. Suitable for students in grades 3?12, these techniques are easily adjustable to any curriculum and presented with ample directions and vivid, multidisciplinary examples. They are valuable additions to every teacher's repertoire. Wormeli also clarifies the process of teaching students how to summarize and includes a special section on the key skill of paraphrasing. The book concludes with an assortment of original text excerpts and activity prompts'a great starting place for teachers ready to use summarization in their own classrooms.


A person's ability to retrieve information accurately and completely has a lot to do with how it first enters her mind when she is learning it. As teachers, we owe it to our students and communities to use our subject expertise to present curriculum in a coherent manner that will be meaningful to students. An added aspect in all of this structuring is that society as a whole is predominantly visual in its orientation (Hyerle, 2000). For this reason, I'm an advocate of presenting concepts, facts, and skills in visual formats at least once during every unit of study.

Many of us already structure material for our students. Various examples include when we write the causes of an event on the chalkboard and draw arrows pointing to their effects; when we place a box around important concepts we've posted; when we provide a template for creating an essay's outline or solving an algebra problem; and when we post a time line of events, a pie graph, or a mind map in which we follow a subject's development or a person's thinking. We even give students graph paper when they are first learning to line up columns in mathematics. What makes analysis matrices and graphic organizers so great for summarization is that their formats are so adaptable: useful in all stages of learning and for a variety of purposes.

Basic Sequence

As you begin a unit or lesson, provide students with a matrix or another graphic way to organize the information they are about to encounter. Students' attempts to complete the structure as a prelearning activity can prime their brains and create anticipation. For example, Figure 2 shows an anticipation guide that will help to structure students' initial thinking about Erich Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front before they turn to page 1.

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