Teaching Summarizing and Summarizing Strategies Make Better Learners and Smarter Kids

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“You began speaking an hour ago,” I blurted, “would you get to the point?”

“I’m just getting to the good part,” Susan replied. She blabbed for three more hours, during which time I decided I needed to start teaching summarizing strategies.

The Benefits of Teaching Summarizing Strategies

  1. Students are able to construct personal meaning.
  2. Students make connections between long term and short term memory, allowing them to remember information better and longer.
  3. Students and teachers find out what they know and what they still need to know.
  4. Teachers discover what students understand and remember.
  5. Teachers discover student held misconceptions and misunderstandings.

Ticket to Leave

Students say or write something brief related to the day’s class. Depending on the time available, you could require the following:

  • Share the ticket with the class to wrap up the day’s lesson.
  • Say the ticket as they exit the classroom.
  • Write their ticket and hand it to the teacher on the way out the door.

Here are examples of “ticket to leave” questions:

  • What’s the most important thing you learned today?
  • Write one question about today’s material.
  • Solve this problem.

Tying the ticket to leave question directly to the day’s objective makes it more effective.


Teaching summarizing strategies is effective when student summaries are open ended.

The 3-2-1 summarizing strategy designates how many of each kind of summary statements are required. Following are some example 3-2-1 assignments:

  • Writing
  • Setting
    • 3 things you know about the country where the story takes place
    • 2 things you want to know about the country
    • 1 place you’d like to go in the story
  • Authors
    • 3 authors you like
    • 2 you don’t like
    • 1 you want to know more about
  • Poetry
    • 3 poems you read as a child
    • 2 poems you’ve read in the past year
    • 1 poem you’ve heard of but never read.

In addition to teaching summarizing strategies, this activity is an excellent prewriting activity.

Cheat Sheets and Best Tests

Cheat sheets help students determing what information is most important to study.

  • Allow students to use these notes on a test.
  • Start big (1 page of notes)
  • Get small (a 3 x 5 card)
  • Collect notes with the test and evaluate note-taking skills.

Best Tests are ideal for concluding a unit of study. Students create tests based on what they’ve learned:

  • Before students write the test, review the criteria
    1. It should include the most important material.
    2. It should ask different types of questions.
    3. It should require high-level thinking.
  • Supply students with a study guide to help form questions.
  • Select student-generated questions for the unit test.
  • Give bonus points to individuals or groups with the highest number of questions selected.

Click here for a complete standards based semester curriculum map with lesson plans and links.

This post is part of the series: Understanding the Bard

In addition to sounding pretentious, using “the Bard” as part of the title of my understanding Shakespeare lesson plans draws attention to the fact that there is more than one understanding Shakespeare lesson plan and that you should click on the one you haven’t read.

  1. Strategies for Understanding Shakespeare
  2. Julius Caesar Lesson Plan: Analyzing Speeches
  3. Webhunt Questions for Shakespeare Online: Fun Lesson Idea
  4. Strategies for Teaching Classical Drama
  5. Teaching Summarizing: Strategies in the Classroom