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Summarizing as a Reading Strategy: An Overview

Summarizing is an essential reading strategy that involves identifying and condensing the main ideas of a text into a concise statement or paragraph. It requires students to actively engage with a text, understand the key concepts, and synthesize the information into a brief, clear, and accurate summary. Summarizing is an effective reading strategy for students of all ages, levels, and subjects. It helps them improve their reading comprehension, critical thinking, and writing skills. This article will discuss the formation and promotion of summarizing as a reading strategy, how it can help RTI students, and how to implement it in your classroom.

Formation and Promotion of Summarizing as a Reading Strategy

Summarizing as a reading strategy has been around for centuries, and it has been promoted by numerous scholars, educators, and researchers. In the early 20th century, John Dewey, a philosopher, psychologist, and educator, emphasized the importance of summarizing as a cognitive and educational process that promotes active and reflective learning. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives included summarizing as a higher-order thinking skill that requires students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. In the 1990s and 2000s, reading specialists and literacy experts, such as Marie Clay, Michael Pressley, and Isabel Beck, emphasized the role of summarizing in improving reading comprehension and metacognition.

Today, summarizing is a widely recognized and recommended reading strategy that is included in most reading curricula and standards. For example, the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts require students to summarize literary and informational texts, identify central ideas, and distinguish between main ideas and supporting details. The National Reading Panel, a group of experts commissioned by the US Congress in 2000, identified summarizing as one of the five essential reading skills, along with phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and vocabulary.

How Summarizing Can Help RTI Students

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tiered approach to identifying and supporting struggling learners. Summarizing can be a valuable reading strategy for RTI students at all levels. For Tier 1 students, who are at risk of falling behind but do not have a diagnosed learning disability, summarizing can help them improve their reading comprehension and retention of key concepts. By summarizing a text, they can identify and remember the main ideas, relate them to their prior knowledge, and make connections between different texts.

For Tier 2 and 3 students, who have been identified as having a specific learning disability or learning difference, summarizing can be an effective intervention strategy that addresses their individual needs and goals. For example, students with dyslexia or ADHD may struggle with processing and retaining information, but summarizing can help them break down complex texts into manageable chunks, focus on the most important information, and organize their thoughts and ideas. Students with language or social-emotional challenges may benefit from summarizing as a tool for self-monitoring, reflection, and communication.

How to Implement Summarizing in Your Classroom

Implementing summarizing as a reading strategy in your classroom can be simple, flexible, and engaging. Here are some tips and ideas for using summarizing with your students:

  • Introduce summarizing as a reading strategy early on in the school year, and model the process with different texts, genres, and formats.

  • Provide explicit and clear instructions for summarizing, such as using key words, phrases, and sentences, and avoiding personal opinions, details, and examples.

  • Use graphic organizers, such as main idea webs, Venn diagrams, or flowcharts, to help students visualize and organize their summaries.

  • Encourage peer collaboration and feedback by having students work in pairs or small groups to compare and improve their summaries, share their insights and questions, and practice active listening and speaking skills.

  • Differentiate your instruction by providing different levels of texts, prompts, and scaffolds for summarizing, depending on your students' needs and abilities.

  • Incorporate summarizing into different activities, such as reading circles, writing assignments, oral presentations, or multimedia projects, to reinforce the importance and relevance of summarizing across different domains and contexts.

  • Assess and evaluate your students' summarizing skills regularly, using formative and summative assessments, such as rubrics, checklists, or self-reflection prompts, to monitor their progress, provide feedback, and adjust your teaching accordingly.

In conclusion, summarizing as a reading strategy is a powerful tool for improving reading comprehension, critical thinking, and writing skills for students of all levels and abilities. It has been promoted and recognized by numerous scholars, educators, and researchers, and is included in most reading curricula and standards. Summarizing can also be an effective intervention strategy for RTI students, who can benefit from its flexibility, adaptability, and individualization. By implementing summarizing in your classroom, you can help your students become active and engaged readers, thinkers, and learners who can succeed in any subject or career they pursue.


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