Deepen Learning with Summarizing and Reflection


After my workshop last week, learning how utilizing summarizing techniques WHILE instructing and teaching can impact learning—I decided to investigate further!  Note:  Summarizing ranks 2nd in the top 5 list for most effective instructional strategies that impact students.


Remember it is not about writing a summary but having students engaged in thinking, writing, and actively summarizing their learning DURING instruction.  When learning a topic, your student goes through four levels of thinking to attain mastery.   Learning begins with awareness of the topic and moves to knowledge.  With a knowledge base, students must be given the opportunity to apply learning and begin the opportunity to understand or use the skill. When application is  mastered then students have the ability to understand or use the skill to mastery.  By stopping throughout the lesson to review and synthesize information, students have the opportunity to build on one level of thinking and begin moving to the next. A teacher can then provide another layer of information, graphics, questions, or scaffolding for students to continue deepening their learning.


Three strategies to encourage reflective thinking and infuse summarizing in lessons ALL day!


  1. Quick Writes: Allow students opportunity to stop and write words, phrases or sentences on a topic you are learning. For example, you have just taught about the water cycle.
    • Stop and allow students to write for 3 minutes and show you everything they know about what they have learned. No worries about spelling or conventions.
    • Pair this strategy by allowing them to partner with another student to share their ideas and learning. This deepens their learning by allowing them to begin applying the academic language they have learned.


  1. Draw It! Yes it is that simple!  Just like a quick write but instead of writing—they draw.  The important step for drawing out their ideas is that after they have finished drawing—they have to label it. This begins students associating their own thinking with the academic vocabulary you are teaching.
    • As an extension you can require students to include certain vocabulary.
    • Have students continue to add to their drawing as they learn more and discuss with a partner what additions they added or changes they made and why!


  1. Create a Simile: After you have discussed a vocabulary term or topic, have students create a simile to make a comparison to the word or idea to something similar to their lives. This type of thinking helps students take an abstract idea and make it concrete in their own terms.
    • Use a sentence frame to help students get started such as meteors are like__________________ because ______________.
    • Have students share out similes and continue to refine your discussion and explanation until students begin to deepen thinking of the idea.


Having students reflect on their thinking is not a new concept and neither is writing a summary.  However, by having students applying reflection and summarizing throughout a lesson, you are deepening their ideas on a concept. Remember when talking, drawing, writing and interacting with information—students are building conceptual understanding!




Articles considered when writing this Blog:

Writing and Speaking to “PULL UP” Reading

As I sat in staff development today, I heard the presenter use this phrase, “writing pulls up reading.”  Pretty powerful if you think about it right? The act of reading does not pull up writing—but the act of writing does pull up the knowledge of what a person has read.  He shared that students by the end of high school should be able to read informational text and express the main points by writing 1500 words on the topic.  Are we preparing our kids for this?

Within this workshop, 8 strategies that have been proven to be effective and yield high growth were shared.  One of these is summarizing.  When we think of summarizing, we think of writing a summary but this concept is a bit different and ties in VERY well to our school wide goal of student interaction. Summarizing can be effective for learning when it is used to break up a lesson, story, or activity and students are asked to summarize before, during and after instruction.  A child’s attention span is their chronological age plus one; think about our 90 minute math block or 120 minute reading block. Breaking this up into chunks is great but is providing center time always the answer?

If you are teaching or reading, simply stop and have students summarize with a partner or stop and write their thoughts and then discuss. The act of summarizing and stopping to synthesize information actually reboots the brain and prepares it for more learning. So, by stopping every 7-9 minutes, to think, write or talk about learning—you are maximizing learning for students AND layering learning. You are allowing information to be processed and then you can build on those ideas after debriefing whole group.  These mini discussions or writing tasks are actually having students “write or speak to inform” which is what we want them to do as students who are graduating and reading 1500 words—right?

This information made me think of an earlier blog post about a strategy to make reading more interactive.  This strategy allows students to synthesize learning, interact with the information and then prepare for more information.  The strategy does not have a formal name to my knowledge but I used it in the classroom and called it Stop Draw, Act, Write and Talk.

As you read, it is important to have ongoing interaction with the students and not having them listen passively.  You can have students make responses verbally or in written form. They can create story maps, think pair share, partner discussions, act out, reflections, etc. I used to keep a poster in my room with the following words:  STOP Draw, STOP Act Out, Stop Jot, and Stop and Talk. These are the options students could use to participate as we read and made notes in their reading journals.


I challenge you for the month of December to begin to use this strategy during whole group reading to allow students to truly take the information, summarize it and apply it in different ways (talking, acting, writing, etc.) It is important for our students to take knowledge in through reading or listening and to practice paraphrasing their learning into a summary and then use it in a new way.

Printable Poster for Interaction: posterread-aloud-11eqc1n-1


Subscribe By Email

Get a weekly email of all new posts.

This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Skip to toolbar