Parenting Teaching your child

Teaching Your Child to Summarise Effectively

Learning to summarise effectively from a young age will help your child immensely when the workload and complexity of information increases later in their schooling career and professional life. It is vital for children to learn that putting in a little more work now will reap massive benefits later. This means getting into the habit of summarising work on a daily to weekly basis. If your child can master this habit, they can kiss test and exam stress goodbye.

Summarising is Like Baking a Cake

The best way to teach your child how to summarise effectively is through a multi-layered approach that uses time limits as the primary learning aid. Most children will work faster and concentrate harder when they know that they can go and play when the work is done. This method takes just a few minutes, making it easy for you to fit into a busy day and for your child to maintain interest. So, get your stopwatch ready and try the following technique:

Start with a Power Scan:

This is like reading the recipe and preparing the ingredients before you begin your cake. With a Power Scan, your child needs to:

  • Scan the text for one minute and attempt to identify important information. This includes the title, subtitles, pictures and some information from the body of the text.
  • Jot down what they think was most important.
  • Briefly revise this information before moving on to the next step.

The Second Scan can be compared to mixing and baking the sponge part of the cake:

  • Give your child ten seconds per paragraph and tell them to identify 2-3 keywords or phrases. These are usually in the first few sentences and can be more easily identified by using the question words: Who? What? When? Where? How?
  • Jot these keywords down.
  • Briefly revise before moving on to the next step.


The Final Scan is like putting the icing on the cake:

  • Your child must decide what format they will use to record the information. This could be a mind map, flow diagram, etc.
  • Give your child another 10 seconds per paragraph to add 2-3 words or phrases that provide additional information of the keywords they have already identified.
  • They should then add the words according to the chosen format to create a cohesive summary.
  • Getting them to add some colour or small illustrations can help to reinforce the information.
  • Do a final round revision.

Eating The Cake

What’s the point of baking a cake, or making a summary for that matter, if you don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labour? When your child’s next test or exam comes around, you should ensure that they use their summaries. Once they realise how much easier this technique makes studying and see the improvement in their grades there will be no turning back.

Mastering this technique will give your child a fantastic boost in their academic career. Once they can summarise effectively using this method, you might want to try teaching them some more advanced techniques on how to summarise a text in English. Remember, cliches are often cliches for a reason. In this case, their certainly one that applies – Practice makes perfect!

About the Author

Kath lives with her husband and 3 young children in a small coastal town in South Africa. She is a speech therapist, who worked in London, Private Practices in Cape Town and KZN and then finally taught at Livingstone Remedial School in KZN, South Africa for 3 years. During this time, Daren Denholm, her memory guru husband, trained her up to compete with him at the 2011 World Memory Championships in China, while she was 6 months pregnant with their first child! The Chinese competitors complained that she was cheating because she had 2 brains. She sat next to the youngest competitor, a 9 year old Chinese girl. It was at this point that the Online Little Genius Puppets program was conceived.

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