Expository Summary Elements

This resource presents instructional practices for writing summaries of expository text in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies classes.

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Summary writing is an authentic writing task commonly used in a variety of contexts across content areas. However, students seldom receive explicit content area instruction on how to write a good summary.

Summarizing a text involves both reading and writing. It requires deeply comprehending the text—for example, being able to distinguish important from less important information—and writing a concise synthesis of the important points. In general, summaries are shorter than the original text, requiring writers to condense information.

A good written summary includes a specific set of elements.

Locate the Elements of an Expository Text Summary and Expository Text Summary Mini-Chart handouts from the handout packet.

Read the elements of expository text summaries. The mini-chart can be placed in students' writer's journals or displayed in the classroom.

One way to introduce and teach students the elements of this genre is to use an expository mentor text and a model summary of that text. After reading both the original text and the summary, record what students notice about the summary. Point out any other elements, if necessary. Then, compare the similarities and differences between the original text and the summary.

Locate the Introducing the Elements of Expository Text Summaries handout from the handout packet.

Read the mentor text, model summary, and annotated summary on the handout. Think about how you can introduce and teach the elements of this genre by using a mentor text and model summary related to a topic in your content area. Write your ideas in your teaching journal.

Expository Text Structures

Along with the elements of a good summary, students need to know how to identify the text structures of expository texts. Knowledge of text structure not only helps students comprehend a text, but also helps them locate and record important main ideas and details to include in their summaries.

Locate the Sample Expository Text Structures and Common Text Structures handouts from the handouts packet.

First, read the sample expository texts. Then, highlight or underline specific text structure characteristics and key words in each sample text. Use the Common Text Structures handout as a resource to help you. A student version of this handout is also provided.

Guidelines for Writing Expository Summaries

Explicit instruction that uses teacher modeling and thinking aloud helps students learn how to write concise expository summaries in every discipline.

Locate the Guidelines for Writing Expository Text Summaries and Example Graphic Organizers for Expository Text Structures handouts from the handout packet.

Review the two handouts.

Locate the Sample Lesson: Writing an Expository Summary handout from the handout packet.

Read the handout and imagine delivering a similar lesson to your students.

Revising and editing should be taught as an integral part of writing summaries. Be sure to model for students how to revise summaries and provide opportunities for students to confer with their peers during the revision process. 

Locate the Expository Text Summary Revision Guide handout from the handout packet.

Review the handout. This guide can be given to students before they begin drafting and then used as they work independently or with peers to revise and edit their summaries.

Think about the following questions below and record your thoughts in your teaching journal:

  • Why is it important to teach students how to identify text structure and complete a corresponding graphic organizer before they begin to write their summaries? 
  • Students are often asked to summarize, but typically, there is little instruction on how to write a good summary. How do you plan to use these resources to teach students to summarize expository text in your content area?