Learn and apply this key writing technique

Summarizing is more than retelling; it involves analyzing information, distinguishing important from unimportant elements and translating large chunks of information into a few short cohesive sentences. This article outlines how students can use summarizing to improve their writing, and presents helpful tips and tricks for teachers on how to teach the concepts effectively. New teachers will find this resource particularly valuable.

Looking for more writing resources? You can find them in our creative writing center.

4 |
5 |
+ show tags
Teaching Strategies:
Page 2 of 2

How Can You Stretch Students' Thinking?

Here are some general questions for students to consider when summarizing either fiction or nonfiction:

  • What happened?

  • Who was involved?

  • What was the outcome?

  • Is the essential piece of information included?

  • Are interesting but nonessential facts or details eliminated?

  • Would someone who read my summary really understand the main points of the text?

Some students may get paraphrasing and summarizing confused. Explain that summarizing is similar to paraphrasing because both strategies require students to put the main ideas of a story or article into their own words. However, the major difference between the two is that a summary usually recounts an entire article or story whereas a paraphrase recounts specific information within an article or story. For example, you might ask students to paraphrase a passage in a chapter of their textbook and to summarize the entire chapter.

When Can You Use It?


Have students summarize stories, a chapter from a novel, an act from a play, a poem, or an entire short story. Ask students to summarize the life of an author or a piece of science fiction or historical fiction.


Have students use a story map to summarize a work of fiction or nonfiction in a paragraph. Have them write a paragraph that summarizes a style of writing that their favorite author uses.


Have students summarize an important theorem in geometry such as the Pythagorean theorem, the quadratic formula, or how to do long division. Have them summarize the life of an important mathematician such as Pythagoras.

Social Studies

Summarize the events leading up to an historical event such as the Civil War. Have students summarize an interesting case such as the Dred Scott case or the life of an important historical figure such as Martin Luther King, or Abigail Adams.


Have students summarize the process of photosynthesis, a recent science experiment, or the life of an important scientist such as Marie Curie or Thomas Edison.

Lesson Plans

  • These lesson plans are for primary students:

    Summarizing, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
    Use a lesson that is designed to expand primary students' summarizing skills using the book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

    Summarizing, Nate the Great
    Use a lesson that is designed to establish primary students' skills in summarizing a story using the book, Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat.

    Summarizing, Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia
    Use a lesson that is designed to introduce primary students to summarizing a story using a part of the book Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia.

  • These lesson plans are for middle or high school students:

    Summarizing an O. Henry Short Story (fiction)
    During this high school language arts lesson, students will summarize, verbally and in writing, the short story "Confessions of a Humorist" by O. Henry.

    Summarizing a John F. Kennedy Speech (nonfiction)
    During this high school language arts lesson, students will summarize, verbally and in writing, a speech that John F. Kennedy gave about the need for America to land a man on the moon.

About the author

TeacherVision Staff

TeacherVision Editorial Staff

The TeacherVision editorial team is comprised of teachers, experts, and content professionals dedicated to bringing you the most accurate and relevant information in the teaching space.

loading gif