Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve Student Learning
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2005
Ellen Berg, a California teacher, says that Wormeli gives both background reasoning and research for why summarization is helpful, then 50 different summarization techniques which are “the spine of the book.” Some were familiar, others new.
Citation: Wormeli, R. (2005). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
By Rick Wormeli
2005 (226 pp., paperback)
Members: $22.95 Nonmembers: $29.95
Reviewed by Ellen Berg
Cooperative Charter School
San Diego, CA
Fun novels and just-for-me reading are usually the sole rulers
of any plane travel I take. Not so on my trip home yesterday
from Philadelphia. Though I had Reading Lolita in Tehran
and the second book in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials
trilogy (artfully slipped into my backpack by a persistent
student) ready and waiting, it was Rick Wormeli's new book,
Summarization in Any Subject: 50 Techniques to Improve
Student Learning that held my attention from Philly to
Wormeli's text, published by ASCD, is a practical guide to embedding
summarization techniques in content areas from art to zoology,
and before, during, and after lessons. The guide is not only
comprehensive, it is user friendly and practical for both
the novice and six-months-to-retirement professional to begin
using in tomorrow's lesson.
The text is organized in three parts. Part 1 builds the case for
offering regular opportunities for summarization citing Marzano
et al's work, Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based
Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement as a major
reason habitual use of summarization is an important part
of classroom work. Wormeli also cites cognitive development
based research to support the frequent use of summarization
in the classroom including the primacy-recency effect and
The first concept deals with the idea that students best remember
what is presented at the beginning and end of a class period,
so the most important ideas in a lesson should be shared in
those learning windows. Since summary generally contains the
key points or ideas of a written work, lesson, or other learning
experience, employing summarization strategies at these times
The second concept, chunking, addresses the understanding that
middle level students must complete a brain dump or processing
activity roughly every 15 minutes (6 to 7 minutes at the elementary
level) in order to organize information and place it into
storage and to be ready to absorb further information. Inserting
a brief summarization activity once or twice into your 45-minute
lesson greatly enhances student retention of content and is
far more efficient that plowing straight through.
Part 2 is titled "Summarization Savvy" and provides tips to maximizing
the summarization strategies that follow. Included are overviews
of text structures (and suggested ways to teach and approach
each one with students), the importance of objectivity in
summarization, student self-evaluation, and specific approaches
to teaching students to effectively paraphrase already well-written
If Parts 1 and 2 are the brain of the book, Part 3, "Summarization
Techniques," is the spine. Moving from the big ideas and whys
of summarization, Wormeli provides 50 separate summarization
techniques and provides a matrix of attributes for each one
such as useful for individuals, short periods of time, kinesthetic
learners, and artistic/performance among others. Each strategy
includes background information, a "Basic Sequence" of how
to use it with specific examples from a variety of content
areas, and suggestions for "Variations and Extended Applications."
Wormeli is clear and precise in his descriptions and leaves
the reader with few if any questions about how to use each
strategy with kids.
Reading through the strategies prompted three general thoughts. The
first which I think of as "Yeah, I'm Good!" bloomed as I recognized
several strategies such as Jigsaw and Carousel Brainstorming
(sometimes known as a Gallery Walk) I already use with kids.
The second reaction, "Sure Wish I'd Thought of That!" applies
to such out of the box ideas as Concrete Spellings, Charades,
or Moving Summarizations that engage multiple intelligences
and I imagine sparking my struggling writers and learners.
Finally, the last category is, "Not for Me, But I Know Someone
Who'd Love This!" This category refers to ideas I see as working
but which don't currently resonate with my approach or teaching
style. However, with 50 strategies to choose from, you are
bound to not only be affirmed in whatever you already do that
works for kids, you will find a large number of new strategies
that you can begin using with your students tomorrow.
Wormeli's message is to summarize and summarize often. Fortunately he
has provided us with a wealth of tools and for doing so. Make
this the next book you purchase.