Easy enough, I figured. I offered students a graphic organizer with a very popular summarization strategy known as the 5 W's + 1 H. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
It was an epic fail, as the kids say.
One of the reasons the students struggled with their picture book summaries was because their topic sentence had a very narrow focus. They would begin the summary with the "who" of the story, but that did not help them introduce the main idea of the story at all. Luckily, my wonderful literacy coach mentioned a strategy to me called "Jot Dots" taken from the Write Tools. I must say that after teaching it to my students, I am hooked!
The strategy begins by asking students to "Name it, Verb it, Give the Big Idea." Essentially, this is a formula for building a strong topic sentence. They name the book, choose an active verb and then write the big idea or theme for the story. (See the presentation below for a specific example of what this looks like for students.) What a simple, yet effective way to begin a summary! It was a hit with all of my classes when they realized how easily they could generate a well-written, focused topic sentence for their summaries.
Next, I had the class write five "Jot Dots" which were notes of five words or less about the sequence of events in the story. Students practiced writing their Jot Dots so that they could organize the rest of the summary that would follow their topic sentence. Again, success! Everyone had a plan of what they were going to write about, which built the students' confidence.
Finally, students stretched the Jot Dots out into individual sentences so that they could elaborate upon each idea. Before long, the students had beautifully written summaries without breaking a sweat. The difference between using the 5 W's + 1 H and the Jot Dots was night and day!
Below is the presentation that I used with my class. If you teach summarizing, I urge you to try out this approach with your students. I was blown away and I am sure you will be too!