When students are learning to write summaries, it is useful to teach them to organize their thoughts with a graphic organizer.
Summarizing graphic organizers are easy to find on the Internet and download for free. Here are a few places you can look:
Summary Frames: This pdf file based on Bob Marzano's work is great to use with upper elementary students who are reading in literature circles or independently. Depending on what comprehension or summarizing skill you are working on, you can give students a summary frame to practice that skill. For example, there are graphic organizers for sequencing story events, finding the main idea, cause and effect, and character traits. Students fill in the blanks about their story to create a summary frame.
Go Read: Summarizing graphic organizers are a plenty on this site. You can choose from over 54 different reading organizers. Some are better for helping students to write a summary, such as a story map or character web. You can view the different organizers and print them out for classroom use.
Thematic Web: This free thematic web can be used to help students write summaries by putting the main idea of an article, book, or passage they read in the middle circle. Then they write details in the boxes around the outside. Once they have these recorded, they are ready to write their summary.
How to Help Students
Summarizing graphic organizers can often confuse students if they are not instructed on the proper way to use them and then how to turn the notes into a summary. Take time to teach students how to use a graphic organizer to help them when writing, or this just becomes another problem they have to overcome before being able to get their thoughts on paper.
The best way is to pass out a summarizing graphic organizer that you are introducing to each student and have a copy on chart paper, on an overhead transperancy, or on a Smartboard to display in front of the class. Read a short passage together from a textbook, magazine, or newspaper. With students' help, fill out the summarizing graphic organizer. You fill out the large one for the class to view while each student fills out their individual sheets. Students should save the summarizing graphic organizers to refer to when they have another assignment referring to summarizing.
Once the graphic organizer is completed, show students how to take these notes and use them to help create a summary. Many times, students will want to write down word for word what is on their graphic organizer, and that's it. Students need to learn that the graphic organizer provides an outline, but transition words and more details need to be added to make the summary complete. If students have difficulty with this, you can assign them partners for the first few times they use the summarizing graphic organizers to write a summary.