Teaching Tip Tuesday: One-Word Summaries

Summarizing can be a daunting task for students, and they struggle with eliminating information and putting it into their own words.  If you ask students to develop a one-word summary about a topic, it seems much more feasible to them.  If you set up the assignment well and give students clear expectations, students still must analyze the topic and think critically about the information they learned.

Follow these two steps:

1) After teaching or reading about a topic with the class, ask students to isolate the critical attributes and come up with one good word that fits the topic.  For example, if students were learning about atoms in a science class, they would not pick the word “atom,” but they would pick one word that could sum up what they learned about atoms.

2) After they have chosen their word, students must be able to defend their word choice with a valid reason.  It is not their choice of the one word that makes this a powerful strategy, but the development of the rationale for defending that choice.  Students must use specific evidence from the text or the lesson.

This summarization strategy can be used as a formative assessment as students evaluate their own justification for word choice.  Teachers can quickly tell who has mastered the learning target.

Websites on Summaries:

My previous post on summarizing:


Summarizing Strategies:


Summarizing Techniques:



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