Aug. 27, 2008 – English 8, 10


Write a summary of the short story assigned in class (either The Three Little Pigs or The King and His Hawk).  Then, rewrite the summary so that it is shorter.  Then, rewrite again.  And again.  And again.  Keep rewriting until your summary is only one sentence long. Make sure that the sentence is a complete sentence and includes all of the details that you want to communicate to your audience.  For more info, see “Methods” below.

Reading Technique: Summarizing

What is Summarizing?

  • Summarizing is where we take larger selections of text and reduce them to their bare essentials: the skeleton.
  • What we want are the key ideas and the main points that are worth noting and remembering.
  • Summarizing is telling the important events or ideas in a story in your own words.

What Makes a Good Summary?

  • A summary of a story is much shorter than the story.
  • A good summary does not give your ideas or opinions.
  • It includes important details that take you from the problem to the resolution.
  • For a story, it includes the narrative elements.
    • Setting – Where the story takes place, usually every scene has a change of setting.
    • Character – Description of the character and a little of their background.
    • Plot – The series of events that unfold in the story.
    • Conflict – The problem in the story.
    • Climax – The strongest part of the story.
    • Resolution – Where the conflict is resolved.

When You Ask Your Students to Summarize, What Usually Happens?

  • they write down everything.
  • they write down next to nothing.
  • they give complete sentences.
  • they write way too much.
  • they don’t write enough.
  • they copy word for word.

What Did You Want Them To Do?

  • pull out main ideas.
  • focus on key details.
  • use key words and phrases.
  • break down the larger ideas.
  • write only enough to convey the gist (the central idea or essence)
  • take succinct but complete notes.


  • Selective underlining
    • This is where you underline only the keywords, which are the absolutely necessary words, and then turn those keywords into one succinct paragraph
  • Write successively shorter summaries
    • Begin writing a summary of the piece of writing, then continue to rewrite your summary, taking out unnecessary details each time, until your whole summary is just a sentence or two.
  • Newspaper summarizing
    • Only focus on the who, what, when, why, where, and how of the piece of writing
  • Somebody wanted to but so
    • Fill in the blanks below:
      • Someday…
      • Wanted to…
      • But…
      • So…
  • Use a story map


  1. Summarizing Handout on Scribd or download it here.
  2. The Three Little Pigs on Scribd or download it here.
  3. The King and His Hawk on Scribd or download it here.

1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Min Joo Choi said,

    these are my final sentences, but i don’t know which one is the best T T

    1. 3little pigs built their houses, the wolf blow away the 1st and 2nd, but he couldn’t blow the 3rd.

    2. 3little pigs built their houses, 2pigs couldn’t prevent the wolf’s attack, but the 3rd did.

    3. 3little pigs built their houses, 2pigs got attacked by the wolf, but the 3rd fight and won.


    If the number is below ten, then you must write it out, i.e. three not 3. Also you’ve got about half of the details right but you need to make sure and include the setting, conflict, and resolution. Take a look at my sentence on the blog post. Don’t copy it but see if you can mimic the flow of mine.

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