A Comparison of Two Strategies for Teaching Third Graders to Summarize Information Texts

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Summarizing text is one of the most effective comprehension strategies (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) and an effective way to learn from information text (Dole, Duffy, Roehler, & Pearson, 1991; Pressley & Woloshyn, 1995). In addition, much research supports the explicit instruction of such strategies as critical to developing skilled readers (Baker, 1984, Duke, 2000; Hare & Borchardt, 1984, Pressley, Mc Donald, et al. 2000; Williams et al., 2005). Despite such evidence, relatively few studies focus on summarization and even less research has been conducted with young children and information texts. This study investigated the effects of two approaches to teaching third-grade students how to summarize information text. Cue Word Summarization (CWS) and a modified version of Cunningham's (1982) Generating Interactions between Schemata and Text (GIST) were the two approaches designed to help students read multi-paragraph informational text and select information using a procedure to guide their composition of a written summary.

Third-grade students in intact classrooms randomly assigned to the instructional treatment conditions (CWS or GIST) or a comparison group were pre-tested on their ability to compose written summaries of information text. After explicit strategy instruction in the treatment classrooms and observations of regular instruction in the comparison classroom, students took a post-test to evaluate their summary writing of information text. Performance on three aspects of summary writing was first analyzed using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to control for experiment-wise error, followed by an analysis of variance (ANOVA) for each of the three dependent variables: textbook information, vocabulary, and organization. For each analysis, group was a between-subjects measure and time was a within-subjects measure. Participants in the treatment conditions had statistically significantly higher scores on all three aspects of the summary writing measure than students in the comparison classroom. This research indicates that explicit instruction in summary writing can be successful with primary-grade students.