A week-or-two ago I published This New Edutopia Video That Turned Writing Argument Paragraphs Into A Game Has Given Me An Idea…
In it, I discussed a strategy I was going to try in my English Language Learner World History class to help students learn to write better summaries, and involved turning it into a game.
Well, I tried it on Friday, and unlike practically every other thing I try to do in the classroom, it went exactly as I had planned – and hoped!
Students first got into their regular groups (comprised of between two-and-four students), and each group was given a mini-whiteboard, marker and eraser. I explained that I was going to put up a series of very short paragraphs, and they would have to choose which of the three answers was the best summary. A peer tutor would keep score on the main whiteboard.
Here’s an example of one of the exercises:
You can find the handout of these exercises in one of my books, though I can’t remember which one. All of the handouts from all of them are available for free download. And you can always easily create your own.
Once we had gone through four of them, and I had looked for opportunities to explain the characteristics of good and bade summaries, we moved to the next step.
I asked everyone to opened their World History textbook to the chapter on Islam that we began last week. I explained that they would get ten minutes to read the page and then, keeping in mind what they had just learned, would need to write a good summary. I would determine how many points each summary was worth.
Students read in their books (taking turns reading each paragraph out loud), and wrote their summaries. One or two groups finished early, and I told them they could get a head start on reading the next page.
I yelled “Time’s up” and asked all groups (about eight of them) to hold up their boards. As I went to each group, I would hold their board so everyone could see and read their summary out load. I would then give each group one, two, or three points, and quickly explained the reasons why (maybe they copied a sentence from the page, or they did or didn’t include the real main idea of the page, etc.). A peer tutor wrote the point total next to each group member on the front board.
The second round’s summaries were all better, and they were all very good by the time we got to the third page.
We won’t “gamify” summaries for every chapter, it’s clearly worth doing now-and-then. This strategy can also be used to teach so many other writing techniques, too!
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