Teaching Reading in Grade 6: Generalizing and Summarizing

Are you teaching a 6th grade reading class, or else helping your child with reading at home? If so, then generalizing and summarizing are typically important at this level. Keep reading for a few tips on helping children develop these skills.

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Teaching Generalizing and Summarizing

Why Generalizing and Summarizing Skills Matter

Generalizing and summarizing both involve breaking down a text into its main points and ideas. Although summarizing commonly yields slightly longer results than generalizing, for the purposes of 6th grade reading the two methods are ultimately quite similar. Making generalizations can be difficult for 6th graders because kids often want to describe things in detail. However, summaries can help them identify the main idea of a story or a text.

Teaching Techniques

One way to teach generalizing skills while reading a novel is to have your child or class write a 1-sentence summary at the end of each chapter. When students are forced to stick to one sentence, they will practice choosing the most important information. You can coach 6th graders by showing them several sample summary sentences and discussing which sentence provides the best gist of the chapter.

Games and Activities

Drawing a picture relating to a text is another way to practice generalizing. Your child or students can draw a picture relating to a short story, novel chapter or poem. Since a picture usually only shows one moment in time, children will have to think carefully about the most important part of the text and make an appropriate generalization about it. You can also ask your class or child to draw a comic strip summarizing what occurred in a text.

For a similar activity that is even more hands-on, you can divide students into groups and ask them to create tableau presentations of a scene from a book. A tableau must represent a single moment in time, which will help students focus on the most important part of a chapter.


Finding the main ideas for paragraphs in a textbook is especially beneficial, since textbooks are harder for some students to follow. They're often written in a didactic style, which may be boring for some kids. Summaries hold students accountable and help them to avoid daydreaming while reading. Have students write a brief summary for each section of the chapter. Not only will this exercise help them while they read, but also when they are studying for an exam.

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