Monday, February 20, 2017

Re-telling and Summarizing: Strategies and Interventions

So, how are your interventions going?  Are your students making progress in the area of re-telling and summarizing?

As teachers of reading, we all know that if a student cannot re-tell the story, he/she will have difficulty making deeper inferences, answering questions about the text, connecting with the characters, and, most importantly, enjoying the story. And re-telling, along with summarizing, is a skill that can be honed beginning in kindergarten all the way to college (think of all those undergraduate and graduate students who write abstracts summarizing research).  As an interventionist teacher supporting second and third grade students in the area of reading, I am constantly grappling with how to best support my little friends with their re-tell and/or summary {fiction texts...nonfiction texts need their own blog post!}.  After reading a book during guided reading, I would pull out a graphic organizer, and think to myself, "this doesn't really match the story structure," or "this doesn't allow the student to include the most important details."  So I began to look at the results of my assessments more carefully, searched some of the professional literature, and began differentiating my approaches in order to better break down this important component of comprehension.

1.  Can the student monitor his understanding of the story?
So, in my previous post about monitoring reading, I was really excited to share the first intervention from my packet to help students improve their re-telling and summarizing:  stop, think, and paraphrase (S-T-P).

The first thing I usually look for is can students read a page or two of text and tell me what has happened.  If students have difficulty doing this, I need to model for them how to monitor their thinking during their reading.  Jan Richardson talks about the S-T-P strategy in her book, The Next Steps in Guided Reading.  She guides teachers to ask students "Who is in this part? What is he/she doing?"  Such a simple idea, but it highlights the importance that students need support to monitor themselves during reading.  I usually stay with this strategy until a student is comfortable I also come back to this strategy if a student progresses to a higher level or if the text is more challenging.

2.  Can the student tell the story sequentially?
This is probably the most common strategy and and a regularly-used graphic organizer.  Teacher models the re-telling by using her fingers and using transitions words, such as "first, next, then, after that, finally."  I like using this strategy with texts that fall in the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels A through G.  These books are usually shorter with simple character actions and a linear plot structure.  Students can also use this strategy to plan their small moments or personal narratives during writers workshop...a great way to connect their reading with their writing!

Of course this strategy can be used with level H books and above, depending on the length and structure of the book. 

3.  Does the reader include the important details and events from the story?
This is probably the most challenging aspect to teach in re-telling and summarizing because it involves a little bit of another comprehension strategy, determining importance, a higher-order thinking skill that we're still honing as adults (or at least I'm still trying to get better at it!).  In order to scaffold their thinking, I teach students that books are "built" a certain way:  usually the author introduces the characters and setting in the beginning along with some character actions, then the main character's problem in the middle along with some major events, and then the solution is at the end.  And the graphic organizer is created to match this structure:

Do all books follow this structure exactly?  No.  But this is a starting point for the reader who struggles with including the most important details and key events.

4.  Transitioning from re-telling to summarizing:  Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then
As students begin to read longer books, it's not really practical or enjoyable to re-tell the entire book.  They may need to re-tell and explain with detail certain parts of the book, especially when providing text evidence in a reading response or describing their favorite part; however when they are finished reading a chapter book, you want them to talk about the gist of the story.  Aimee Buckner has a great anchor chart in her book Notebook Connections where she compares a re-telling with a summary.  She and her students equate a re-tell with meat and bones while the summary is just the bones.

Again, this is a challenging skill because it involves determining importance.  Which events are the most important ones and which events can be omitted from the summary?  I think it just takes a lot of practice and teacher guidance to develop this skill.

5.  Can students identify the story elements?
Students tell you about the story, and never mention the characters names.  Or where the characters were.  Or talk about the character's actions but not really talk about the problem.

These graphic organizers can be used during reading to make sure that students are looking for and identifying the plot elements correctly.  For the actual written re-telling or summary, students would use one of the other graphic organizers.  There are two anchor charts:  one provides definitions and a visual for each plot element.  The other anchor chart depicts the story elements as puzzle pieces with the author's lesson being the central piece.  During my small group lesson, we use the puzzle pieces to "build the story."  

The most important thing for me is matching the graphic organizer with the book structure, length, and student need.  It really takes intentional planning and analyzing of the text, and of course, knowing the student {informal assessments, running record, teacher observation, questioning}.

Hopefully this resource can provide you with some graphic organizers that will best support your student needs and help them grow as readers!


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