"So this book was about this one girl and she woke up one day and decided to have pancakes for breakfast and then she went back upstairs and got dressed for school then she went back downstairs to get her backpack then she left the house and went to the bus stop which was on the corner by her best friends house and she waited until the bus came and when it came she got on and went to school and got there right before the bell rang so she ran to class and..."
Five minutes later, I'm still listening to the student 'summarize' the story they just read in play-by-play, sometimes even with instant replay! On the other hand, some students try to summarize a chapter book in two sentences or less and it's like pulling teeth to get them to include more details.
The kids do a lot better starting out with a structure when I want them to summarize. I let them in on a super-secret teacher clue: retell = tell every detail in the story; summarize = tell the main details. There's a lot of graphic organizers out there, like this one from the fabulous Jen Runde:
I like to keep it simple and just have the kids write one detail from the beginning, two or three from the middle and one from the end. The kids took that information, made it into a book jacket for their book, and wrote their summary on the inside. Of course, we read plenty of book jacket summaries before they tackled their own, just to get a really good idea of how authors summarize. And here's the final product:
The book jackets were hung from the ceiling with care...
In hopes that everyone would read them there...
And find a good book to read!