In Part II, cognitive strategy 11, we explored how summarization might help students attend to the important attributes of a text and make more precise predictions as a result. Learning to summarize effectively is an important skill, one that a classroom structure with the acronym GRASP (Hayes, 1989) can help students to master. Based on summarization rules this classroom structure is best used as an introduction to the concept of summarizing. Brown, Campione, and Day (1981) suggest the following rules for summarizing:
- Deleting trivial information. In figure 19.1a a student organizes information from a nonfiction article according to what is interesting and what is important.
- Delete redundant information.
- Label categories for listed information—army and navy can be recategorized as “military.”
- Identify and relabel subordinate actions to a superordinate—“Sherman marched his army across Tennessee to Atlanta then on to Savannah” can be relabeled as “Sherman marched his army to Savannah.”
- Find and select the author’s topic sentence in each paragraph where one exists.
- Create or invent a topic sentence if the author has not written one into the text.
Step by Step
- Find a suitable text that ranges from 500 to 1500 words (Hayes, 1990). Identify the cognitive strategy, summarizing, students will work with and that they will work in groups for this exercise. Students will also need to know that the procedure they use in groups will also work for them when they have summaries to write as individuals.
- Students are directed to read the text and remember all they can. After reading, the class lists all they can remember from their reading on a chalkboard or chart paper. At this point, students may be simply retelling all they remember. Students then reread the material to determine if they missed any significant information that should be on their list.
- Students and teacher review their list to identify the important categories of information represented in the text. The group notes any relationships among the categories they establish.
- Finally, students write their summary with directions to leave out unimportant information and details, to combine information where they can, and to add information and sentence elements to make the summary coherent. In figure 19.1b, the student organizes the final summary.
Applications and Examples
Whitney Johnson uses GRASP with her students when plots become complex. Students using GRASP are able to revisit and reconstruct the plot in their minds as a result of this summarizing activity. Summarization and prediction share a link in that both require attention to relevant details.
[Insert Figures 19.1 and 19.1a about here.]
Figure 19.1 In her own words, Whitney Johnson, Lanier Middle School, Buford, Georgia.
In a unit on scary/suspenseful stories, students will read “The Monkey’s Paw” (Jacobs, 1902),” a short story. After reading the story, students will be able to distinguish between how tone and mood is developed throughout a story, the importance of character motivation in a story, and the sequence of events. In order to help students further understand these concepts, I will use the series-of-events chain, a compare/contrast matrix, and GRASP as study strategies. Using the summaries they create, they will be able to apply their knowledge to the next suspense story in the unit and predict its structure in order to focus more fully on the story.
The GRASP strategy is a thorough way to ensure that students remember certain parts of the story. What I really like about the strategy is that the students write down as much as they can without looking back. I feel that this activates the students’ memory and encourages them to not rely on the text. By writing what the students call out on the board as important things to remember as part of the summary, the teacher is also modeling how to delete concepts, regroup them, and identify topics in the summarization process and be more concise. Anything we can use in the classroom to promote thinking with the text is beneficial. Supporting what students read and learn in more than one way will only encourage the important ideas and concepts.