How to Summarize with a Thinking Map

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Summarizing doesn’t come easily for most kids. Most kids are natural retellers. You know, those kids who tell you every last detail of a movie that they just watched? (Oh, the agony!) 🙂 Which is why I want to tell you about using a thinking map (graphic organizers) to write summaries.

The goal with summarizing, unlike retelling, is to only pull out the main idea and key details — not retell everything. To do this, kids must be able to determine what’s important versus what’s interesting.

Summarizing with a Thinking Map

One of the essential comprehension strategies a good reader utilizes is determining importance. In other words, readers must be able to decide what information is important, and what information is just interesting. For strategies to help your children determine what’s important in expository text, you’ll want to read this article — “Determining Importance in Nonfiction Text.

Determining importance is the basis for summarizing, right? Knowing what are the most important things.

Then, a good way to organize this important information before you write the summary is to use thinking maps. Thinking maps are tools to help children organize their deep and critical thinking.

Main Idea and Details Thinking Maps

It helps kids to have a visual when thinking about summarizing. I like to start with the example of a mason jar filled with ingredients to make cookies. Why? Because the main idea is very clear — it’s cookies. And the details are also very clear — they are the different ingredients: flour, sugar, oatmeal, and craisins.

Brace Map

Try illustrating this with a thinking map like a brace map. A brace map is a part to whole tool which in this case, is the details to the main idea.


Tree Map

Tree maps also are helpful ways to identify the main idea and key supporting ideas. These thinking maps are often used to organize one’s thinking from big idea to smaller details.


Next Steps in Summarizing: Write Sentences

Once your child understands the main idea and details, writing a summary in 5 sentences or less will be a piece of cake, or cookie as it were.

Use the information on the thinking map and write it in complete sentences.

Remind kids that a summary does NOT include their opinion.

And that is a helpful way to write summaries — start with a thinking map and then write the summary.

Next, read “Summarizing Fiction”.

Follow Melissa Taylor’s board Reading Activities on Pinterest.

summarizing using thinking maps

PHOTO CREDIT: Amanda Boyarshinov
Follow Melissa Taylor’s board Writing Activities for Kids on Pinterest.

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  1. This is a great post with a brilliant visual reminder to help kids map out their summaries!