Teaching summary writing can be very boring and formulaic as is most OSSLT (our grade 10 literacy test) preparation. Being as I like to teach using outside the box thinking, here is what I tried in my grade 10 applied English class this week.

I had all students enter a room on todaysmeet.com. To activate prior knowledge for them and for me to observe what they already knew, I asked them to explain what a summary is and why it’s useful which they shared via todaysmeet. I then asked them to explain how you write a summary which we discussed verbally. Next, I asked them to go to an article I had preselected and look for the main idea which they were required to share on todaysmeet. After considering the ideas put forth in the class, we agreed on the main idea. Finally, I asked them to choose one piece of supporting text from the article to copy and paste into todaysmeet and again as a group, we discussed which pieces of evidence were the most effective at supporting the main idea.

From there, I had the students select an article from their Zite accounts (so personal choice about a topic they find interesting) and write a summary paragraph. The students posted their completed paragraphs in our Edmodo group. I then copied and pasted the paragraphs onto their own piece of paper (without attaching names) and hung them up in my classroom. I had the students complete a gallery walk where they wrote a positive, something to work on and a comment or question to extend the thinking on three of the posted paragraphs. I plan to turn the “something to work on” aspects of the feedback into a checklist for their for future writing.

Some observations:
– the students know what summaries should look like and their function
– we had quite a variety of topics for the paragraphs!
– the writing abilities in my classroom vary greatly
– it seems like there is a disconnect between what they say they know and their performance (some of the paragraphs didn’t follow the guidelines about proper paragraph writing which they had discussed earlier in the class)
– we need to work more on giving specific details when providing feedback (I saw a lot of “good jobs” rather than a specific aspect that was well done)
– but the most important observations: I wasn’t “teaching”- I was guiding while they were doing the learning and they were having fun!

I feel good about these week and the learning my students accomplished. It was definitely a risk but I think it has paid off in terms of them thinking about summaries and for me knowing what skills we need to further for them to be successful on the OSSLT.

As always, if you have any feedback for me, I would love to hear it as well as what you do that is outside the box…

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