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9y.o. struggling to summarise texts - any suggestions?


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We started the WTM approach back in September and have been having a great time. The main obstacle I'm finding is that my 9y.o. just doesn't get the concept of summarising a text (i.e. exercises from WWE). His summaries include loads of detail, plus additional detail that wasn't even in the original! Then he runs out of space on the page and just stops, without including half the main points of the original text.

Every time we do it, I explain to him what a summary is, read the prompt questions, look through the paragraphs with him to highlight main points and cross out unimportant details. But he still doesn't get it - and the more I try to explain, the more disheartened he gets.

Anyone else had this problem? Any advice?
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I never had this problem; my kids' summaries leaned toward the "It was about a dog. Period. Done." style.

I can think of some things I might try other than the highlighting that you've already done:

  • Borrow from IEW keyword idea, and do 2 or 3 keywords from each sentence. Then, after he goes sentence by sentence, he writes from his keywords a summary. Then, he can add his own flair to it if he wishes.
  • Or some sort of visual graphic organizer like 4 Square Writing, where he would highlight the main point and some subpoints.
  • Stretch the same passage to another day. Since he's done after one page, the next day start where he stopped. After he's completed the passage, go through and compare the two. What did he add? What did he leave out? What would he need to add or drop to more closely match the original?
  • If he is capable of doing a summary, but just wants to add his own story to it, you can do have him do a summary one day and creative writing the next of the passages.  

 

 

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When I was in school, concise summaries were one of my superpowers.  I figured my advanced older kid would have no problems with this.  Wrong!  We didn't follow a program that required it and we didn't do a lot of report/summary writing in elementary school for other reasons.  But, when we came back to it in middle school kid was a lot better at it.  I also learned that kid thought that information was cool.  We spent 6th grade working on essays, which requires a lot of picking and choosing of information so requires similar skills to summarizing, and I found that I got much better essays if I just let kid add a section at the end that was unrelated to the essay - just other stuff that the kid thought was cool that didn't fit anywhere.  Maybe that would work for you - the required short summary and then a 'tell me whatever you want about the topic' as an extra section?   There really are 2 goals - summarizing, and learning content.  My kid couldn't focus on the writing part until they were happy with the content part, I think.  

Edited by Clemsondana
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Try asking summarizing questions, and then require the summary from that.

 

"What problem did the characters face? How did they solve it? Now tell me in two sentences what happened in the text."

Did he do WWE but he's still struggling?

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My DS8 has a hard time with this, as well.

We’ve been using IEW this year, which starts with the idea of a Key Word Outline, then pulling answers to specific questions from the text, & eventually to pulling the main ideas from multiple sources to merge into reports.   

I’ve started having him summarize his history as well - it was just going in one ear & out the other, despite him actively trying to pay attention. Now I read one paragraph at a time & he writes one sentence about the main idea of each paragraph. By the time we complete each chapter he has about a page of notes to refer back to. 

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On 3/3/2021 at 12:48 PM, AtticusFinchAteMyBaby said:

We started the WTM approach back in September

Good! I need to reread the sections, because I seem to remember WTM saying to start summarizing in 4th. Given his age, is he a 3rd grader or young 4th grader? And is he just plain new to embracing his narrative language?

On 3/3/2021 at 12:48 PM, AtticusFinchAteMyBaby said:

His summaries include loads of detail, plus additional detail that wasn't even in the original! Then he runs out of space on the page and just stops, without including half the main points of the original text.

Sounds like he's having fun! Are they fun or well written? If you called them narrations and expansions and weren't worried about the whole summarizing thing, are they good?

Personally, I would stop worrying about him and let him write everything he wants for a while. There are plenty of progym based curricula that would have him do what his doing, and it's GOOD. It's not a mess up and it's not bad. It's just that he's developmentally ready to do something that is different from what SWB's curriculum of that year says to do, kwim? Is that a problem?? No, lol, obviously you can embrace where he's at. It's FINE.

So my dd did that, and it was a stage. It ended and then she went hyper terse. She has ADHD, which comes with EF=executive function issues, and that's why she couldn't sort out what was important and trim it down. It came with time, and eventually you'll probably do some explicit instruction. Next year, you can start outlining together. Have you done any outlining? Start looking for things that will be very interesting to him. We used Muse magazine, because the articles are engaging and well written and lend themelves to outlining. My dd had a lot of "aha!" moments as she saw how other writers structured arguments. It's not necessary to do summarizing right now and it's not necessary to do it with the WWE sources.

Fwiw, your time might be better spent working on typing. If he's going to output that much, he definitely needs to know how to type. :biggrin:

PS. When my dd hit freshman comp, she LOVED helping peers edit their papers. Don't assume something is going WRONG, kwim? People blossom as writers in their own time and he may have some facility and enjoyment that goes along with that disorganization, hehe. So keep it positive, embrace what he's doing, and give him another way to get there a little later. Maybe even bring in some other fun writing since he seems to enjoy it so much. Have you tried SWB's creative writer series for poetry? Or any of the Don't Forget to Write books? 

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As someone who has had drag two kids kicking and screaming through their writing assignments, I say forget the summaries and ask him to tell you about...whatever.  Whatever it is you're learning about.  Let him write.  Do not squelch his enthusiasm!  I promise that in ten years when he has moved out of the house and all you're left with is a box full of work, you'll know it was the right decision.  

He can learn to write a proper summary later.  I'm serious.

Edited by EKS
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