Summarizing Strategies

Summarizing Strategies

Purpose: To promote the retention of knowledge through the use of engaging strategies designed to rehearse and practice skills for the purpose of moving knowledge into long-term memory.

summaryTraditionally summarizing strategies happen at the end of the instructional design process. Have you ever heard the old adage “the last thing you hear is the first thing you remember”?

Closing arguments attorneys give.  (You’re better to be last.)
Final statements in a campaign speech.
Last lyrics of a song.

The theory of primacy and recency effect say that the probability of remembering is greater at the beginning and even greater at the end of your lesson. Based on brain based research, primacy and recency psychological theories reveal that information that is most recently presented is the information our brains retain best. For this reason it is vital to have a powerful closing strategy that will help students recall what they have learned during a lesson. As brains have physically altered with the digital age, teachers must now be mindful of summarizing practices that will have the best effect on a student’s learning. Because summarizing is where teachers get the most powerful results for student recall, teachers have shifted to a distributive practice of summarizing which is now done throughout the lesson rather than just the end.

Using this information, Learning Focused lessons use a distribution model for summarizing which includes a variety of summary strategies throughout the lesson rather than just the end.

Overview Summarizes

Overviews can happen both at the beginning and end of a lesson. As a front-loading strategy they can be in the form of agendas, advance organizers, a syllabus, video clips, and condensed forms. As a summary synopsis at the end of a lesson they can be in the form of tickets out the door, graphic organizers, reaction guides, and written reflections. Overviews are a way of summing up to students what they are about to learn and/or outlining what they have learned. Students like to know what they are there for and overviews help give them that focus.

Distributive Summaries

Distributive summaries should happen all through the lesson. Chunking, in psychology is a phenomenon whereby students group responses when performing a memory task. In teaching, we chunk our lessons into parts that make sense to breakdown the content into manageable pieces of information. It is believed that as teachers present their content in smaller chunks with a variety of learning styles, students will better assimilate and retain the information. The chunks become more meaningful to the students. With each chunk should some a summary strategy. (Sample summary strategies are included at the bottom of the page.) Students can now get the 34 percentile gain not once but several times throughout a lesson using the distribution process.

Two ways to ensure distributive summaries happen are through  Collaborative Pairs and through Formative Assessments.

Collaborative Pairs

Collaborative Pairs is an organizational tool presented in Learning Focused Lessons. The premise is that is gives all children response times rather than calling on one student. It makes it more difficult for students to get “lost in the cracks”. Students become frustrated and disengaged in classrooms that cannot always meet their emotional, mental, and intellectual needs. Collaborative Pairs allows students to dialogue along the way about what they are learning. It helps them stay accountable to the other learner in their pair. Teachers can focus their attention to the one or two that do not seem to be participating while everyone else is actively engaged. I think most educators will agree that students are social. Collaborative pairs creates the parameters of the social setting for learning.

Formative Assessments

Formative Assessments support learning during the learning process. They are used by the teacher as an informative tool to the teacher as an indicator of student’s mastery of skills and they help direct teachers in the decision making about future instruction. They can be quick checks and do not take an inordinate amount of time. The time they take from a lesson is well worth the information the teacher gathers and the retention student’s gain.
Formative assessments should in turn help summarize the chunks of information being presented to help assess what the student learned in that portion of the lesson. Find some suggested Formative Assessments at the bottom of the page.

Summary Point Writing

Reading Foundations training refers to summarizing as getting the gist of a text. Likewise, summary point writing is recorded evidence that the learner has gotten the gist of the content. Summarizing is giving the most important “facts” of the content. This type of summary might also use a quote from the text, but the quote should be representative of the text’s main idea or point. When using text as the content, summary point writing is a great strategy fro using evidence from the text which one of the three shifts in the English/ Language Arts for the Common Core.

Summarizing Strategies

Purpose: To engage students in synthesizing major concepts in this summary strategy.
Decsription: Students respond to the following related to a particular topic: 3 things that interest me about the topic, 2 things I'd like to know more about the topic, 1 idea they have about the topic.
1. Students draw an upside down triangle on their paper.
2. In the big space at the top, students write 3 things that interested them about the topic.
3. In the middle space, students write 2 more things they want to learn about the topic.
4. In the small space at the bottom of the triangle, students write one sentence to sum up the big idea of the topic.
Differentiated Instructional Strategies: One Size Doesn’t Fit All (2nd ed.), by Gayle H. Gregory and Carolyn Chapman. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press,
See template by clicking this link. (You will need MS Word installed to view the download.) 3-2-1 Template

Purpose: To engage students in synthesizing major concepts in this summary strategy.
Description: In Shape Up Review students will synthesize major concepts from the lesson using four different shapes. Teacher can modify so students may select one of the shapes or dictate which shape to use.
By varying the manner in which students visually summarize their learning, retention of the information learned is increased.
1. Share the Shape Up Review Template. Have students draw their own Shape Up Review.
2. In "The Heart," have students write one thing that they loved learning about in the lesson being reviewed.
3. In "The Square," have students write four things that they feel are important concepts from the lesson being reviewed. One concept should be placed in each corner.
4. In "The Triangle," have students write the three most important facts they learned from lesson being reviewed. One fact should go in each corner.
5. In "The Circle," have students write one, all-encompassing (global- like the circle) statement that summarizes all of the important concepts and facts learned in the lesson being reviewed.
See template by clicking this link. (You will need MS Word installed to view the download.) Shape Up Review Template

Purpose: To engage students in synthesizing major concepts in this summary strategy.
Description:A Ticket Out the Door is a quick informal assessment that can be as simple as one sentence summary of what students learned. Other uses are to answer a review question, to pose a question related to the topic studied, to make a short list of facts learned, or to set a learning goal for the next day.
Procedure: Use a stickie note to have students write their response or create a formal template of a ticket and have students write their response on the ticket as they walk out the door. The most important piece of this activity is that the teacher takes time to review the tickets so she will know what skills/concepts needs to be "re-taught" to those who didn't quite get it.

The image to the left shows a poster ready for students to place their stickie notes anonymously by student number. This way the teacher knows who responds and can quickly check for understanding.

Be sure to check out the first resource listed for additional ideas for "Stuck with You" or simply do a Google search for images with "Stuck with You" as key search words. There are also many varieties of ideas for tickets out the door, be sure to search those key words as well.


Purpose: To engage students in synthesizing what they have learned in this summary strategy.
Decsription: Students respond to each letter of the alphabet as a prompt for a word, phrase or sentence that relates to something they have learned in the lesson.
1. Students either use the attached template or create their own A-Z list or boxes as shown in template on their paper.
2. In each space they respond to the letter to prompt them to write a word, phrase or sentence about the lesson.
3. In another version of this summary strategy, teachers give each student a sentence strip with a letter of the alphabet to complete, students stand in A-Z order and share their responses.
North Carolina Teacher Academy, 2009
See template by clicking this link. (You will need MS Word installed to view the download.) ABC Review Template

Purpose: To engage students in synthesizing major concepts in this summary strategy.
Description: Students create an acrostic by placing the name of a topic or concept vertically down the paper.
Procedure: Teacher veritcally writes one word as theme or topic of lesson. Students generate a word or phrase that begins with each letter of the vertical word.



No Sweat Public Speaking! How to Develop, Practice, and Deliver a Knock Your Socks Off Presentation! With No Sweat! Published by Fred Co., St. Louis, Mo. 2011

Through the Cracks, Carol Sollman, 2008

*Special thanks to North Carolina Teacher Academy (Unfortunately this agency along with Middle School Literacy Coaches were cut by the General Assembly under the leadership of Governor Beverly Perdue in 2011)