February 19

Revamping my Summary Assignments

I am Shaking up the way I have my scholars summarize information. 

This MONTH’S #BLOGAMONTH TOPIC is a challenge to ‘do things differently.’

“Change a constant.”

Whether this is taking your class outside, putting music on, removing desks, unplugging your tech lesson, going paperless…etc, lets break the routine and reflect.

I decided to shake things up and do away with requiring summaries from my Scholars. I will instead be focusing on Gist statements, Blackout Poems, and Student Generated Questions. We do need to check on their understanding but as you read your 30th rendition of

  • First, this happened
  • Then, this happened
  • So then, this happened

It gets old and hard to deal with. They hated writing it and after picking up the 31st paper, I am apt to declare, “Nope not interested at all. No thanks. Don’t want to read anymore.” But what I can deal with is a quick check that requires my Scholars to summarize the text in 25 words. Okay yes, I know I used the dirty s@@#$%^ word but the number of required words in the summary gives it an interesting twist.

“Whoa! Wait!?!? What?!?! 25 words?!?!” – their response.

“Yes, 25 words. No more. No less. Exactly 25 words.” – my response.

Not only have I just decreased the number of words that I have to read but I have drastically increased the rigor. It takes some serious critical thinking to reduce a passage into a prescribed number of words. Gist Statements are just one way to rid your Scholars of the dreaded, boring, standard summary assignment.

Gist Statements

  • Objective:  Accurately paraphrase sentences, keeping original meaning, and changing the structure of the sentence if necessary
  • Learning experience: Learners will read and locate/synthesize information and create a summary of 20-25 words.
  • Student product:  Brief summary passage
  • Rationale: This strategy helps students identify the most important ideas in a text, put those ideas into their own words, and then make connections between among these important ideas.

BlackOut poem

  • Objective: Read closely to determine the main idea or purpose of a text and eliminating all other words. Blackout poetry is a page of text that has been partially blacked out – colored over with a permanent marker so that the only visible text provides insight into the text as a whole.
  • Learning experience: Learners will read, locate information of interest and highlight sections of a chosen text.
  • Student product: Text based poem that can be shared and displayed.
  • Rationale: Creating BlackOut Poetry is an effective strategy to promote active and critical reading skills by requiring students to read the text and identify points of interest. These points of interest can either be teacher directed or student driven.

Student Generated Questions

  • Objective: analyze and synthesize a text and compose possible test questions.
  • Learning experience: Learners will read and locate/synthesize information to create questions.
  • Student product:  Discussion and/or multiple choice questions.to be used for a test, Kahoot game or a round of Quiz-Quiz-Trade.
  • Rationale:  Creating questions help students gain a deeper understanding of the text. It requires students to find textual evidence to support their question/answer choices. This activity requires students to explore concepts from the assigned text.

Can you revamp your summary game by using Gist statements, Blackout Poems, and Student Generated Questions? Try these activities out and I guarantee you that your Scholars will thank you.

(That’s not really true.) 

Condensing text drives many of them crazy and the responsibility of creating possible test questions scares many but at least it is not the same, boring assignment and you can get the necessary feedback that you need.


Posted February 19, 2017 by Ms. B. in category #BlogAMonth, Blogging Challenge, Blogging, Web and Wiki Tools, Literacy Resources, My Class, My Tips, NonFiction

About the Author

I am an English teacher at West Jefferson Senior High School in Harvey, Louisiana. I teach approximately 90 students and I hope to leave them with skills, ideas, thoughts, dreams, and hopes that will guide them in future endeavors.

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