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Summarizing teaches students how to take a large selection of text and reduce it to the main points for more concise understanding. Upon reading a passage, summarizing helps students learn to determine essential ideas and consolidate important details that support them. It is a technique that enables students to focus on key words and phrases of an assigned text that are worth noting and remembering.


Summarizing builds comprehension by helping to reduce confusion. Teachers train students to process the information they read with the goal of breaking down content into succinct pieces. This strategy can be used with the whole class, small groups, or as an individual assignment. Summarizing text by using writing activities builds on prior knowledge, helps improve writing, and strengthens vocabulary skills. 

Create and use the strategy

Pre-select and introduce the text to be used in the Summarizing technique. Decide whether to have students use this strategy within one section, on one page, or with the entire book. Then, model the process of sifting out extra verbiage and extraneous examples within the passage. Give your students ample time and opportunities to practice. 

  1. Begin by reading OR have students listen to the text selection. 
  2. Ask students to write a summary of the target text based on the following framework questions:
    1. What are the main ideas?
    2. What are the crucial details necessary for supporting the ideas?
    3. What information is irrelevant or unnecessary?
  3. Guide students throughout the summary writing process. Have them use key words or phrases to identify the main points from the text.
  4. Encourage students to write successively shorter summaries, constantly refining their written piece until only the most essential and relevant information remains. 

What it looks like: 

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Jones, R. (2007). Strategies for Reading Comprehension: Summarizing. Retrieved 2008, January 29, from

Guthrie, J. T. (2003). Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction: Practices of Teaching Reading for Understanding. In C. Snow & A. Sweet (Eds.), Reading for Understanding: Implications of RAND Report for Education (pp. 115-140). New York: Guilford.