When it comes to reading comprehension, it can be difficult to know if your students truly understood what they read. It can also be difficult to know if your students are reading the entire passage, or if they are going right to the questions and skimming the passage for the answers.
Teaching summary sentences is an excellent way for teachers to see what their students are taking away from the different sections of the passage, which can lead you to see how well they understood the passage, from start to finish.
WHAT ARE SUMMARY SENTENCES?
Summary Sentences are sentences used to summarize different sections, or parts, of a passage. These sentences can be used with every text, whether it be long or short, fiction or nonfiction.
The point of taking the time to write summary sentences is to help students quickly see what each section was mostly about, which will help when answering reading comprehension questions. The summary sentences will help students find evidence from the passage that supports their answers, which helps them to have confidence in their answers.
By going through this process, you require students to think deeply about a text and decide what each section is mostly about. This will automatically increase a student’s reading comprehension of the text.
HOW TO USE SUMMARY SENTENCES
- Students will go through the passage and divide it into sections. If the passage is already separated into paragraphs, they can simply section it off that way. For longer paragraphs, they can section it off into more than one section per paragraph. If the paragraphs are shorter, they could combine more than one paragraph into a section. The sectioning will differ depending on the layout of the passage.
- After sectioning off the passage, students will go back through and number each section. My students usually wrote the numbers on the left side of the passage.
- After numbering the sections, students will do a “Cold Read” of the passage. For a cold read, students will read the passage all the way through without stopping.
- Following the cold read, students will read the passage again. This time, they will stop after each section and write a summary sentence. Their summary sentence should include what that section was mostly about, almost like the main idea of that section of the passage. If there is room, the students can write their summary sentences on the side of each section. However, sticky notes work great for summary sentences.
- Once students have finished reading the passage for the 2nd time and writing their summary sentences, they will move on to answering the reading comprehension questions. They will refer to their summary sentences to help them answer the questions.
HOW SUMMARY SENTENCES HELPED MY STUDENTS
Based on my experience in using Summary Sentences with my students, I noticed a HUGE increase in confidence when answering questions, whether it be multiple-choice, short answer or extended response. My students were able to use their summary sentences to see where in the passage they should be looking for the answer. This saved them from becoming frustrated and ensured they were answering the questions correctly.
While it does take extra time to write summary sentences in the beginning, in the end, this strategy will increase overall reading comprehension for your students.