In this activity, inspired by Burke’s The English Teacher’s Companion (1998), students will summarize main ideas and vital details in one sentence. There are five different types of one-sentence summaries: description, sequence, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and problem/solution. The purpose of the activity is to help students focus on the most important information. This activity can be used at the beginning of a lesson to activate prior knowledge or as an exit ticket. It can also be used as a check-in mid-lesson to assess student understanding before transitioning to new material. This activity is effective across content areas and grade levels. It works with text- and non-text-based lessons.
Prepare sentence starters for each of the one-sentence summary types.
- Introduce One-Sentence Summaries
- Provide direct instruction of the five types of one-sentence summaries.
Explain each of the five one-sentence summary types: description, sequence, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and problem/solution. Review sentence starters for each type.
- Model a one-sentence summary.
Read a passage or show a video clip. Based on that content, select one of the five types of summary sentences. Use the sentence starter to write a one-sentence summary. Think aloud for students and stress that the sentence includes the main idea and vital details.
- Practice writing one-sentence summaries.
Students read a passage or watch a video clip, select the type, and write a one-sentence summary.
- Obtain peer feedback.
Students switch papers with a peer. They read and evaluate the summary. · Did the students select the appropriate type of summary? · Did the summary include the main idea and the vital details? Students share feedback with each other. You may want to give students a form with the questions above to fill out as they evaluate their peer’s sentences.
- Repeat (optional).
One-sentence summaries could be written at various points in a lesson during a longer text reading. They could be used as an opening or closing to a lesson.
Students can reflect individually or as a group, orally or in writing. · Which is harder to write: a traditional summary or a one-sentence summary? Why? · What was one piece of feedback you received from your partner that was helpful? · How does writing a one-sentence summary help focus you on the most important information? · When might you use this strategy again?