Retelling and Summarizing

An essential routine in my classroom is Morning Meeting.  While we vary the activities during this time, every Monday we take the time to share one interesting thing that happened over the weekend.  As there are 31 people wanting to share, the sharing is limited to 1-2 sentences about the topic.  We each share the main idea of what happened and know we can add in the details during free time at lunch or recess. Limiting the weekend highlights to just two sentences is very difficult for some students.  It’s amazing how much information they believe they can put into a single sentence!

During the past two weeks, we have been practicing writing summaries.  We began our learning by reminding ourselves of the difference between a retell and a summary.  During a retell, the writer includes all the information from the text.  When summarizing, the writer identifies and explains the main ideas of a text.   As we were comparing the two, a little girl who struggles with our Monday Morning Meeting suddenly burst out, “That’s it!  I’m really more of a retell girl than a summarizing girl!”  She had made a connection!

Summarizing non-fiction is an important skill.  The key to a good summary is two-fold – first find the main ideas of each paragraph and put them in a plan, then write a strong and focused topic sentence.  We use the acronym SAAC to help remember the elements of a summary topic sentence.  The S stands for State It – name the type of text to be summarized and the title of the passage.  The first A stands for Assign – in the case of non-fiction we use the word author.  The second A stands for Action – state the action of the author. What was the author’s purpose for writing this article?  Finally, the C stands for Complete the Sentence.  Finish the sentence by listing the main ideas we found from each paragraph.  As we practiced our SAAC sentences, a student started humming the YMCA song.  We were soon all up, making the motions for SAAC

Using our writing plan and a SAAC topic sentence has helped my students become strong summary writers.  Although they still may prefer to retell their weekend, they can now easily summarize a passage!