#080: Tips for Teaching Summarizing in Elementary Grades

Do your students struggle with writing a summary?

That's actually very common. [🤷🏼‍♀️Who knew?] Summarizing is quite difficult when you’re first learning how. It seems so simple to us on the other side with all the knowledge, doesn’t it?! Even though it’s tricky, stick with it! This comprehension strategy is an important one for your students' long-term learning success. 

In case you haven't figured it out yet, today's episode of The Teach Joyfully Podcast is all about teaching the summarizing comprehension strategy.


So what exactly is summarizing? 

Well...according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "a summary is a restating of a text in your own words which gives the meaning of the original text in a condensed format". We do NOT add our thoughts or opinions in a summary. That can be tricky for some students. Also, a summary is not the same thing as a retelling. They are related but retelling a story includes all the events in order from a story using time order words and is much longer.

Did you know that students don't always have to write a summary? Yup. There are 2 other ways for students to summarize without writing a thing! That means that primary grade students and ELLs can do summaries even when they are not yet able to write a lot. 

Here's 4 wordless picture books to get you started. If you want a larger list, grab the freebie here.

  • The Lion and the Mouse [Pinkney]
  • Skates [Keats]
  • The Paperboy [Pilkey]
  • I Got It! [Weisner]

For those of you who want them, the related Common Core State Standards for this strategy are at the bottom of this post.

Listen in to the full episode to find out:
  • Why summarizing is an important strategy your students need in their reader's toolbox.
  • The surprising type of books I use to begin teaching this strategy.
  • What to progression is for teaching summarizing.
  • 2 simple ways students can practice summarizing regularly, even when it's not your focus.
  • What should be included in a summary for fiction and for non-fiction.

Listen to this episode for all the goodness [and don't forget to grab the free Summarizing Guide below ⬇️].

 I can't wait for you to get started! 

H.O.P.E. Education RESOURCES you're going to L️VE:

Grab the freebie: Summarizing Guide

Check out the FREEBIEs Vault here.

Want more? You got it! ⬇️                

   Reading Comprehension Graphic Organizers

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Ready for more? You're a teacher after my heart ♥️! LISTEN to these Teach Joyfully Podcast episodes next!

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#009: How to Get Your Students from Knowing HOW to Read to Becoming READER

 #059: 5 Ways to Sabotage Your Students' Independence

#060: My 7 Favorite Children's Book Podcasts

#068: How to Get Started and Be Successful on Outschool with Wendy Wawrzyniak

#077: How to Teach Listening Skills in Elementary Grades

#078: Reading Skills vs. Reading Strategies - What’s the Difference?

#079: Why Making Predictions is an Important Reading Comprehension Strategy


Standards for Summarizing and Retelling


  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RI.K.2  With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text. 
  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.K.2With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.

First Grade

  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RI.1.2  Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.1.2  Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

 Second Grade

  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RI.2.2  Identify the main topic of a multi-paragraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text. 
  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.2.2  Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

 Third Grade

  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RI.3.2  Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.    
  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.3.2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

 Fourth Grade

  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RI.4.2  Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.4.2  Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

Fifth Grade

  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RI.5.2  Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text. 
  • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.5.2  Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.



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