Summarising is a difficult skill but one that has, according to John Hattie, a high effect size (0.63). Other high impact literacy approaches associated with summarising also have similar high effect sizes (note-taking [0.59], organising and transforming notes [0.85], synthesising information across texts [0.63]). Therefore, the ability to summarise information is a worthwhile skill that has a significant impact on learning.
Here are some tips to assist students:
- Do not do the summarising for students. If students do not read the original text from which the notes came, they will not develop deep understanding of the topic. This will have an adverse effect on their ability to write about the topic.
- Ensure that the text to be summarised is easy enough for student to comprehend. Use the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Index in Microsoft Word to check readability.
- Avoid using the texts in text books for summarising purposes as modern textbooks are already summaries.
- Give a clear purpose for reading and summarising. When the purpose for summarising changes so too does the main idea. (See Hooking Students into Learning … in all curriculum areas p. 410/11 for an activity that shows this).
- Use graphic organisers that mirror the way the ideas in the text are organised. For example, if the text is a comparison, then use a Three Column Venn for the notes (See Pat’s Posters and Graphic Organisers).
Give students the opportunity to reduce the information to fewer and fewer words. (SeeHooking Students into Learning … in all curriculum areas p. 416/17 for an activity that shows this).