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Grade: all

#2785. Writing a summary

Reading/Writing, level: all
Posted Mon Jan 6 09:51:48 PST 2003 by Richard Bloom (
Central HS of Prince George's County Public Schools, Capitol Heights, Maryland
Materials Required: text, paper, handout
Activity Time: 1 period to start; reviews periodically
Concepts Taught: reading, skimming, notetaking, summarizing


The general approach to writing the summary of a reading passage is to include the main points and important details in your own words. The procedure is as follows:

1. First, SKIM the selection to obtain an understanding of its general meaning.

2. Next, REREAD the selection more carefully, highlighting key words and phrases that convey its meaning.

3. Third, TAKE NOTES on the main ideas and the details that support them. As you take notes, keep the following guidelines for writing a summary in mind:

a. Use your own words.
b. State the main idea of the selection in the first sentence.
c. Include only important information, such as names, places, dates, and other facts.
(1) When summarizing stories, focus on setting, characters, conflict, rising and falling action, denouement, and outcome
(2) When summarizing expository text, look for topic sentences, information that is emphasized or repeated, group-related terms under a one heading (e.g., types of artistic endeavor, transportation, trade, political groups, religious groups,, and a sentence that seems to state the reading’s main idea.
d. Make sure to keep the information in the same order in which it appears in the selection.

4. Finally, WRITE your summary, basing it on the guidelines stated in part 3, above.