Lesson Plan on Summary Writing: Skills to Teach

, Staff Writer
Updated November 18, 2020
lesson plans on summary writing skills
    Students in classroom learning summary writing
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    Used under Getty Images license

Help students understand how to write summaries through a summary writing lesson plan. Students who can write useful summaries demonstrate they clearly understand the storyline, or if it is nonfiction, the text. Additionally, a solid summary does not have too much or too little information. This is where you, as the teacher, come into play. Learn how to teach summary writing through a clear lesson plan for your students.

Summary Writing Lesson Plan: Warm Up

Have students think back to the first time they were challenged to write a one-paragraph summary of a movie or book. If they look at it from the standpoint of the glass being half empty, then the once daunting task could seem near impossible. How can they fit everything about the story in one paragraph, and where should they begin? Allow students to work in partners to write down their thoughts to share.

Learning Objectives

After the lesson, your students should have a solid understanding of:

  • the definition of summarizing
  • using strategies to consolidate critical information and details into a fluid summary
  • distinguishing relevant and irrelevant facts


For this lesson plan you need:

  • two printouts of short stories or articles of your choice
  • highlighters

How to Teach Summary Writing (Lecture & Activity)

Now that you know what your students are thinking. It’s time to get started with the lesson plan. You can use their thoughts to mold the lecture and help them better understand the concepts.

Step 1: What Is a Summary?

Start by giving a concrete definition of a summary so that students are not confused. Include your goals and objectives for the summary writing skills lesson. Ease the tension and anxiety that students have surrounding the summary writing process. Revert back to how you felt when you were first tasked with writing summaries in high school. Provide students with concrete strategies for writing summaries as well as for improving their overall writing skills.


Step 2: Teaching Summary Writing

Provide students with a handout of text from a short story of your choosing. Show students on the overhead projector how to break down and digest one paragraph of the reading.

  • Show them how to read through the material several times and highlight or outline anything that stands out to them.
  • Demonstrate how to place asterisks (*) by the phrases or sentences that may prove to be the main point of their summaries.
  • Encourage students to flush out the text by reading carefully — paying special attention to what the author conveys stylistically as well as texturally and thematically.

Step 3: Creating a Summary

Ask the students to either come up with an original hypothesis or pull a lead sentence to propel the summary. Work through the remainder of the story paragraph-by-paragraph using the skills outlined above.


Step 4: Summary Writing Activity

Review the rules for creating a summary. Provide students with a new short story handout. Have them create a brief summary on their own, using the steps outlined in the group activity. Move around the class to assist as needed.

Useful Tips for Your Summary Writing Lesson Plan

When creating your summary writing lesson plan, there are several things you want to consider for your individual classroom.

  • Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish, what you want the students to learn and how your lesson will better align with the mandatory state standards for literature.
  • Students should be able to divide the material to be summarized into a few parts. Doing this will help them to see all of the material more clearly. This should be one of the objectives that you list on your lesson plan.
  • Write the step-by-step process on the board for students to look back at while doing the individual activity.
  • For classrooms having trouble understanding summary writing concepts, consider making the individual activity a group activity.
  • Further clarify or discuss any vocabulary or concepts the majority of students are struggling with.
  • Use short stories or articles students find engaging or interesting to further push their interest in summary writing.

Teaching Summary Writing to Your Students

By following the lesson plans on summary writing skills, you will find that your students will be more than happy to pump out summary after summary on just about any material that you give them. For more information on summaries, check out strategies to improve summary writing.