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CrunchyGirl

Summarizing When He Can Remember Every Single Detail

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If LegoMan doesn't have a photographic memory, he's got something close going on. Because he can literally remember every single detail (and sometimes recall full sentences from a passage)--we are having a really hard time getting him to explain the main point of a piece. We would like to move him on to WWS in the fall and I have some hope that outlining will appeal to his strong sense of organization. But if anyone has run into this before and has suggestions, I'd appreciate it.

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Have you modeled what you are asking him to do for him?  If not, that's where I'd start.  You may have to do this several times.  You can also ask leading questions to get him to figure it out on his own.  You can also tell him he needs to confine his words to one sentence of no more than two clauses (or whatever length you deem appropriate).

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I've just started working on this with my daughter, who sounds similar in this regard. I ask her to summarize a story and she can quote whole passages.

 

We've worked on a challenge where she and I both try to summarize a story in X number of sentences or less. Sometimes I set the number at something reasonable. Sometimes I set it so ridiculously low that I can't even really make it, just so she has the exercise of seeing just how much of the information could be seen as extraneous. I always have her try first, then I try it myself. (If I went first, she would parrot me.)

 

She's gotten better, but it's still in the early stages so I have no idea how it will work out. I'll be watching the thread to see if anyone else has ideas!

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Can you explain to him *why* he has to summarize? Like someday he is going to have to explain something to someone else, and even if he can remember all the details, the other person will only be able to remember a few details. He needs to give the other person only the most important details. Summarizing isn't just something we do to torture people with photographic memories. (Although it can sure feel that way!)

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Can you explain to him *why* he has to summarize? Like someday he is going to have to explain something to someone else, and even if he can remember all the details, the other person will only be able to remember a few details. He needs to give the other person only the most important details. Summarizing isn't just something we do to torture people with photographic memories. (Although it can sure feel that way!)

 

 

You can make this into a game. Aliens arrive from another planet. He needs to explain something to them. But they have tiny memories and they they can only remember four sentences.

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My oldest, who is now in 3rd grade, was like this when we first started doing narration.  She would literally repeated the whole fable during our oral narrations, and I was always running out of room after writing on the front and back of the page.  She's gotten better over time.  Now that she has to write her own narrations, she's also much more inclined to want to summarize and make it short  :glare:

 

I like Jackie's suggestion of making challenges to summarize in X number of sentences.  Maybe saying, "If you had to tell me in one sentence what this is about, how would you describe it?"  I am going to start doing that with my DD to get her accustomed to understanding the "main idea."  

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I have two children like that and am like that myself. It is very hard when you remember alllllll the details.

 

I ask them to look for the verbs sometimes, and I will ask things like, "Does this detail advance the action of the story?" That helps some.

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Maybe have them pick out the top 8-10 key words and use those to create 4-5 sentences summarizing the material?  What might also help is if you model for them several times first, talking them through what you are doing, why, and how.  Then when they do it themselves, do it at the same time.  Do it collaboratively.  THEN have them do it with less scaffolding.  And I agree, making it a game may help.  

 

Summarizing takes quite a bit of brain power and organization, especially if you either have trouble remembering the material or you remember ALL of the material.  Either way, summarizing becomes challenging.

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My son remembers every detail, too.  At first he wanted to give me pretty much the entire thing in his own words, but I made him stick to one sentence per narration.  It helped so much.  With only one sentence available to use (which, granted, sometimes got long) he was able to figure out what the most important part was.  When we moved on to 2-3 sentences, again he wanted to give me more than necessary, but I'd just remind him to stick to the most important parts.

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How about asking him 2-4 questions? The answers to those questions would be the main ideas / events of the story. You write his answers down (in complete sentences) and then read his answers back to him. Point out to him that his answers (read together) is the summary of the story. Model that over-and-over until he can do it himself. If he gives you too many details in the answers, try to make the questions even more specific or go ahead and write down his long answer. Go through his long answer and scratch out the supporting details to show him the difference between what is supporting and what is main. You could even do this in the story itself. Literally scratch through all the supporting info --- use a photo copy of a short fable. Tell him that the point of a summary is to peak a person's interest without giving away any juicy details.

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I used to do an exercise with my son (who always wanted to write every detail), where he started out with his entire essay.  Let's say it was three pages, single spaced.

 

The next day, I'd tell him he had to take out half a page-worth of writing.  

 

The following day, another half page.  Now it was down to two pages.  

 

And on and on, each day, until we got it down to one paragraph.  He kind of enjoyed this challenge.  When he had to take out a bunch of information all at once (in order to come up with a summary), it seemed impossible.  When he did it very slowly over time, it was much more doable.  Eventually he got to be very good at summarizing!

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