Posts Tagged ‘acronyms’

Summarization Techniques that Work

November 7, 2009 2 comments

As we continue to make adjustments to our instruction based on the results of the 6-week benchmarks, pacing guides, and formative assessments, retention is a common area of concern. Putting strategies in place to assist students with comprehension and retention of lesson concepts will decrease student and teacher frustration.

mnemonicsConsider poor old Aunt Sally. She’s constantly making mistakes in the mathematical order of operations. You will have to excuse her if you already understand when to perform each order of operation: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” is an extension of PEMDAS, the angry-old-ladyclassic acronym for the order of mathematical operations. This mnemonic device assists students daily in understanding what to do and in what order. When you think about it, PEMDAS is also a summarization strategy. Creating acronyms for concepts, cycles, protocols, sequences, and systems is a great way to allow students to summarize and retain information.




writing3One way to begin is by asking students to list the essential attributes of something that you have been teaching. For example, say that you have been focusing on how to write good introductions to essays. In response to your prompt, students might generate a list that includes the following:

• Hook the reader with an interesting attention getter that provides background information to set the stage for your thesis.
• Add your thesis statement.
• Provide an organizational hint to serve as a preview for the content of the essay.
• Use a clincher to transition from the introduction to the first body paragraph.

Classroom Instruciotn Book

Great information on summarization can be found in this book. See me to borrow a copy.

Then, ask your students to examine each attribute and identify a single term to serve as a key word for remembering that attribute. This group activity involves discussing and deciding on key words, providing yet another opportunity for summarization. Key words for remembering how to write good essay introductions might be attention getter (AG), thesis (T), organizational hint (OH), and clincher (C).

Now it’s simply a matter of sequencing the letters in an order that makes sense. If the attributes are things that do not need to be in a specific sequence, then all the students have to do is move the letters around until something coherent and meaningful emerges. If the sequence is set, such as the steps in a math problem, the process of how a bill goes through Congress, or the metamorphosis of mealworms, the order of the letters is nonnegotiable, and creating a memorable acronym can be a bit more challenging, but it is certainly a worthwhile task.


thesis_funnelThis technique can also work as a pre-assessment activity. You might ask your students to create an initial list of attributes as a whole class activity. Then, have the students revise the lists on their own (another opportunity for summarizing). As mnemonic devices, acronyms can be even more powerful when created by students themselves. Consider asking each student to design his or her own acronyms for something to be studied, and then vote on the top three. The voting criteria might include clarity, accuracy, and how easily the acronym can be remembered.


wormeli book

See me if you would like to borrow this book.

Summarization is not only a technique proven to improve student achievement, but it is also a method of formative assessment that can help you assess where your students are and help them self-assess. By implementing various summarization strategies, we can help provide students with yet another exposure to higher-order thinking activities.



Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Westerberg, T. R. (2009). Becoming a great high school: 6 strategies and 1 attitude that make a difference. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Wormeli, R. (2004). Summarization in any subject: 50 techniques to improve student learning. Alexandria, VA: Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development.