What strategy do you use to teach summarizing of fictional text to 4th graders? I feel that mine are having a hard time picking out the main details of the story. They give me more of a retelling than a summary.






Have you looked at the Ready Reference in the CAFE book and on the site at the link below?


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Also, here’s a link to the Assessing Student Learning lesson suggestions and rubric:


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Rachel Geyer

I’ve looked at the links and assessment and they mention “The GIST” strategy but I can’t find anything that explains what that is. my students are really struggling with the idea of summary and any strategies will help.


I love the “Get the Gist” lesson format, and it’s a great way to get students of all ages (with adjustments for grade levels) to get the idea of summarizing.
Basically GtG works like this:
Students read a piece of a passage–I suggest starting with a “meaty” paragraph and work your way up to sections and finally a complete passage.
(Keep the I do, We do, You do lesson format in mind.)
Start with lots of modeling of the process, then let students have a go.
After reading, students use a white board or other tool where their writing can be easily edited. Students work to put together a sentence with no more than 10 words that covers who or what the piece was about, plus the most important point to remember from the passage. They can work in pairs, small groups–whatever works. Then, students compare their summary sentences and decide how they can improve their own to come up with the best summary.
I’ve used GtG with first graders with stories they’ve read, up to 5th graders reading their science textbooks.
There’s even a song to the tune of The Addams Family song that will help kids remember the steps:
Get the Gist! (snap, snap), Get the Gist (snap, snap)
Get the gist, get the gist, get the gist!! (snap, snap)
It’s the who or the what, then the most important thing–
In ten words or less
And then you’ve got the gist
Get the Gist (snap snap)
A couple of rules to remember: Names (like Little Red Riding Hood or Thomas Jefferson) count as one word. The final statement has to be a complete sentence–stick to the ten words rule.
As your older kids get savvy with this, you can have them write their finalized summary statements for parts of, say a chapter in a book, on post-its. Then, when they finish the whole piece, they can use those post-its to write an over-all summary of the chapter.
Try it, and let us know how you like it!!
Here’s a llink to a GtG lesson the the Read, Write, Think site that probably explains it more eloquently than me .


With my 5th graders I start with the “somebody wanted but so then” formula. It seems to help them stay focused on the big idea vs all the detail retelling that they want to do. I have already started using the formula by using all my read aloud books and so far most are getting it. I have found in the past that eventually those that can start summarizing on their own using their own words. I always let them know that this is just one way and they are free to use their own way as long as it is a summary and not a retell.

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