Reading and Writing Summary Paragraphs

Image by Kirsty S (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Summary paragraphs are the building blocks of many kinds of longer form writing, from blurbs and informational texts to reports, reviews and formal essays.

The summary calls on both reading and writing skills. One of the short writing tasks on the OSSLT requires students to read and then summarize a longer piece of writing, such as an information paragraph. To do this, they need to pick out relevant information as they read and then reassemble these points in a well written paragraph. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

What is a summary?

A summary is a condensed version of a longer text. A good summary on the OSSLT 

  • tells the reader what the original text is mostly about
  • has a topic sentence that states the main idea
  • includes a couple of supporting details
  • has a concluding sentence
  • is 6 lines or about 6 – 10 sentences long


How do you write a summary?

To write a good summary, students first need to read the original carefully, noting the main idea and hilighting key details. For tips about helping students to identify the main idea, read our earlier post, Where Students Get Stuck. Once students can recognize the main idea in a piece of writing, they can more easily pick out the relevant details that support it. 

This student video outlines nicely (and humorously) the main points to remember when planning and writing a summary. It also has great tips, which provide a good summary outline.

Next week, I’ll talk about where to look for good examples of summaries for reading (and writing) practice.

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