Help Writing Summaries: How to Help My Child Learn to Write a Summary

Writing summaries can be helpful if your child is having trouble keeping track of the plot. Summaries help students review what they've read and notice changes in the characters. Keep reading for tips on how to help your child write an effective summary.

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How to Write a Summary

Before your child begins to write a summary, go over a few basic rules. The author's name and the title of the work should always be included. Write objectively; summaries are not the place to include personal opinions about the story. Finally, be concise. Avoid excessive details, and only write down the most important parts of the story.

Draw a Picture

Some students are visual learners. They can picture what happened in a story but may have difficulty putting it into words. If this is the case for your child, have him draw a cartoon depicting the events. Then, have him write captions explaining each picture. Eventually, with enough practice, your child may be able to picture the events in his head (rather than drawing them) and just write the summary.

Tell Backs

Sometimes, the text is too long for children to remember everything that's happened from beginning to end. Have your child stop frequently while reading and review what she's read so far. Depending on how difficult the text is, she may need to stop every five pages. She can retell what's happened aloud to you or silently to herself. The key is to review the material frequently. Then, because of all the review she's been doing, she'll be able to write an effective summary.

Verbalize

Have your child tell you what happened in the story. Write down exactly what your child says, and then read it back to him. Some students are able to verbally summarize a text, but lose track of what to say when they put pencil to paper. Practicing this way, your child will experience how speaking can be translated to writing. It can also help to relieve anxiety he might feel about writing.

Main Events

Some students have difficulty deciphering between details and main events, which are the most important events that happen in a story. To practice, challenge your child to retell the story in as few words as possible, which will force her to think about only the most important events. In addition, have her make a list of the main events while reading. That way, when she has to write a summary, she'll have an outline to refer to.

Use the Text

Summaries are not meant to test your child's memory; they're meant to reinforce comprehension. As a result, let your child refer to the text when he's writing. Chapter titles, pictures and key phrases may spark his memory. Referring to the text will also ensure that the summary is accurate.

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