Edublog: Uncovering Wisdom through Pedagogy

Summary Skills

Subject: English Language
Level: Year 1
Unit: Reading Comprehension
Topic: Summarising skills
Macro-concept: Systems
Topical concepts: summary, trivia
Guiding Questions: only on the topical concept of ‘trivia’ because the lesson is focused on the summarising skill of ‘delete trivia’.

  1. What is trivia? (Factual)
  2. What counts as trivia? (Conceptual)
  3. Which writer worth her salt would include trivia in her writing? (Provocative)

Before this lesson

  1. The class had looked up the meaning of summary, and done some hook activity, eg. you read the novella, The Painter of Signs, in Semester 1. Tell me what the novella is about in 10 words. I had made the point that we have the instinct to summarise.
  2. Students were told that in the four-year RGS English programme, they will learn summarising skills, starting with the skill of deletion in Year 1. Students had generated a list of synonyms for the verb, ‘to delete’: strike out, erase, remove, backspace, leave out.
  3. Homework: read one-page-long short story, ‘Mary’, by Edna O’Brien.



  1. I asked class to be learning–ready, that is, (i) open soft copy of table of learning points where last lesson’s learning are logged (definition of summary; synonyms of ‘delete’); (ii) open a browser to an online dictionary; (iii) have the short story close at hand.
  1. I asked, ‘what does one delete in order to produce a summary?’ Then I introduced the first summarising skill – ‘delete trivia’. Students looked up ‘trivia’ in at least one online dictionary to find its meaning, part of speech, usage.
  1. Next we applied the definition of trivia on the short story, ‘Mary’. I projected ppt.slide showing Prompt A on the white board: What are Mary’s tasks in the household? Students contributed answers that I wrote on the white board. The answers were 3 points: (1) cook, (2) care for Buck the child, (3) clean the house. Students had to give evidence to support what they said (give paragraph or line reference).
  1. Next I pulled down the white screen to cover the writing on the white board, and projected Prompt B: What does Mary’s female employer expect of Mary? I invited students to answer Prompt B.
  1. One of my class almost immediately saw that answers to Prompt A are also answers to Prompt B. So I raised the screen and the same 3 points are there, now under Prompt B. Then some students suggested there is more, ie. that the employer expects Mary to keep quiet about her affair; so I used a different colour marker and added this as point (4) on the white board. In my other class, the first contribution was ‘clean the house’ (pt 3 for Prompt A). I moved to the left of the white board (outside the screen) and wrote this on the board. Second student said, ‘expect Mary to not talk about affair’. I wrote this under ‘clean the house’. Then students started saying, ‘actually, the employer also expects her to cook, right?’ So now I raised the screen and the same 3 points for Prompt A show again. I confirmed with the class that the same answer – cook, care for Buck, clean the house – still apply to Prompt B. Now I used a different colour marker to add new pt (4) – ‘keep quiet about employer’s affair’.
  2. With the ppt slides, I alternated between projecting Prompt A and Prompt B. I asked the class why point (4) is used to answer B but not A. Students responded that point (4) is trivia when the prompt is A; but point (4) answers Prompt B and is not trivia for B.
  1. Close: I brought students’ attention back to the Conceptual question – What counts as trivia? Students logged the learning point: the same piece of information can be trivia in one case but important in another case. The question or prompt to answer, or the problem to solve guides one to decide if information is trivia or not.


Posted by: Mrs Tan-Tham Kum Chee

Lead Teacher

Centre for Pedagogical Research and Learning (RGS PeRL)

Raffles Girls’ School

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