How to Write a Summary: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 What Is A Summary?
  • 1:06 How To Write A Summary
  • 2:51 Practice
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: April Inocente
Did you ever need to tell someone a story but didn't have the time to go through all the small details? If so, you were in need of a summary! In this lesson, we'll discuss summaries.

What Is a Summary?

Have you ever seen a movie you enjoyed so much that, the moment you saw your best friend, you just had to tell them about it? You didn't reenact the entire movie, did you? Rather, you probably gave a shortened version of the story retold in your own words. This is a summary.

A summary is condensed, or shortened, retelling of a longer work (this can be a movie, book, play, long poem, and so forth). Summaries are meant to be short--the purpose is to communicate the basic idea of the piece and the relevant details. It gives a person who has not read the story or book a good idea of what the book will be about.

You've probably seen a summary before--they're the short blurbs on the backs of books that describe the main events of the stories inside. Sometimes, especially with academic papers like essays, writers will end the text with a summary of all the main concepts that have been discussed.

How to Write a Summary

When you sit down to write a summary, the first thing you want to do is read or watch the original. Make sure to pay attention the Six Ws:

The Six Ws

The who, what, when, where, why and how should be answered in your summary if important to the overall text and if those answers are available in the original text. And keeping an eye out for these answers while reading will help you with the next step: finding the central idea, or theme, of the story.

Sometimes, the theme will be written in a topic sentence--usually in the first paragraph of the piece. But more often, especially with narratives, the central idea is spread out within the story. The key is to look for an overarching theme that seems to be focused on or repeated throughout the text. Once you've found the central idea, write a topic sentence that communicates it. The remaining sentences of the summary will provide the main details of the story, including the beginning, middle and end, in our own words.

Keep these tips in mind when filling in the details:

  • There should be no irrelevant information or minor details in the summary. (For instance, it isn't necessary to tell what the pigs ate for breakfast that day.)
  • Include only very important characters from the story.
  • You should never include your own opinions when writing a summary.

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