A Strategy for Summarizing Chapters as a Habit of Mind

February 7, 2017 Updated February 4, 2017

Developing readers struggle to carry forward meaning across chapters. However, when they learn to use strategies to do so they develop their reading intelligence. Not only do they grow the ability to recall what they have read as a habit of mind, they also learn to interpret meaning by making inferences supported by text-to-text evidence across the story. As a result, their ability to make meaning and comprehend shoots way up. 

Essential Questions

  • How do we summarize a chapter? 
  • How do we help developing readers summarize chapters in meaningful ways? 

One Effective Strategy for Summarizing a Chapter

Each chapter of a novel could be compared to an episode in a TV series. Typically there are the five narrative elements of fiction:

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Conflict
  • Resolution
  • Plot

And, there are the fundamentals of an event:

  • Who or What
  • Did What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
  • How 

We think about how these elements and fundamentals play out in order to make meaning across a chapter.

When we apply this as a strategy to summarize, we strengthen the ability to carry meaning forward as a habit of mind. The following process is a great strategy to do this:


Write a brief sentence or two in order to state the chapter’s main message, idea, and/or event.


Write a few sentences describing the chapter’s key elements (characters, setting and conflict) and their connection to one another relative to the chapter’s event or main idea; name, describe, and/or explain the characters, setting and conflict within the chapter.


We write a paragraph to summarize the fundamentals of “who or what did what, where, when, why, and how in the chapter.

When we exercise this strategy to summarize the chapters across a novel - chapter after chapter - we learn to think this way as a habit of mind. We carry meaning forward and are better positioned to make inferences through text to text connections as a habit of mind. 

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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