Posts Tagged ‘Connections’

Summarization-Lingusitic and Non-linguistic

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Summarization Pyramids

A summarization pyramid is a versatile tool that comes in many formats, has many sizes, and can be used with many prompts. It’s easy to adapt the basic foundation of this technique to your curriculum and your students’ needs.

Basic Sequence

Construct a pyramid of lines on a sheet of paper. When first playing with this format, begin with eight lines, as shown below.

Summarization Pyramid













For each line, choose prompts that yield one-word or short answers for the shorter lines and longer responses for longer lines. If you have a large pyramid and a prompt that requires a lengthy response, consider asking students to use more than one line of the pyramid for their response. Consider these prompts and add your own as you experiment with this strategy:

• A synonym for the topic
• An analogy between the topic and a sport
• One question the topic sparks in you
• Three attributes or facts about the topic
• Three words that best describe the topic
• A news headline that would capture the essence of the topic
• One or two other topics related to this topic
• Causes of the topic
• Effects of the topic
• Reasons we study the topic
• Arguments for the topic
• Ingredients of the topic
• Personal opinion of the topic
• Demonstration of the topic in action
• The larger category from this topic comes
• A formula or sequence associated with this topic
• Insight gained from studying the topic
• Tools for using the topic
• Three moments in the history of the topic
• One thing that we used to think about the topic that we’ve discovered to be incorrect
• Samples of the topic
• People who use the topic
• What the topic will be like in 25 years

This list could go on forever. As you decide on prompts and pyramid sizes, challenge yourself to choose experiences that will allow the students to interact with the topic in several ways. Your goal is to have your students learn something from more than one angle in order to promote retention of the concept or skill.


Variations and Extended Applications

Consider asking your students to create a visual related to the topic as they respond to your prompts. For example, use clouds with various forms of precipitation to express information about the water cycle, a ziggurat to express information about Mesopotamia, or a bar graph or pie chart to express information about graphing data.


Research on the “dual-coding” theory of retaining knowledge suggests that knowledge is stored in two forms-a linguistic form and an imagery form. The linguistic mode is semantic in nature. The imagery mode, in contrast, is expressed as mental pictures or even physical sensations, such as smell, taste, touch, kinesthetic association, and sound (Richardson, 1983). The imagery mode of representation is referred to as non-linguistic representation. The more that we ask our students to use both systems of representation—linguistic and non-linguistic—the better they are able to think about and recall knowledge.


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.

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