Minds On

Let’s be brief

Think about how you would respond to the following prompts. Then, select one prompt and respond to it using only 10 words.

  1. Describe your favourite day of learning so far.
  2. Describe a book/audiobook that you are currently reading.
  3. Describe an exciting moment you recently experienced.

Was it challenging to respond to the prompts in just 10 words? Why or why not? How do you think this activity relates to summarizing?


What does it mean to “summarize”?

In this learning activity, we will explore how to create a summary for a nonfiction text. We will also compare how nonfiction and fiction summaries are similar and different. This way, you have some idea of where to begin when you need to summarize a fiction text.

A summary is used when you want to explain a topic, without repeating every word and detail. Although we focus on summarizing nonfiction texts in this lesson, you can summarize both nonfiction and fiction texts.

How do you create a summary?

  • First, determine the topic and main idea of the text. (The main idea may not always be explicit or obvious).
  • Then, identify key supporting details. You can use the Five W’s and H (e.g., who, what, where, when, and why and how) to create an overview of the text and avoid unimportant details.


Share your thoughts

Respond to the following questions:

  • What do we summarize?
  • When do we summarize? Do we summarize before, during, or after reading?
  • Why do we summarize?

Record your ideas using a method of your choice.

Nonfiction and fiction summaries

How is a nonfiction summary different from a fiction summary?

Nonfiction and fiction summaries are quite similar. They are both short and concise descriptions of the main points of a text. However, while nonfiction refers to real-life stories focused on actual events, people, or things, fiction refers to plot, characters, and setting. This is also why we summarize nonfiction and fiction texts a little differently.

You can use the Five W’s and H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) to create a summary for a nonfiction text, and the SWBST strategy (Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then), for fiction texts.

A quick tip: You can use the Five W’s and H to self-assess your nonfiction summaries:

In my nonfiction summary I’ve explained:

Similarly, you can use the SWBST strategy to self-asses your fiction summaries.

The following table breaks down the Five W's and H strategy and the SWBST strategy.

Nonfiction Texts Fiction Texts

Who: Who or what is involved?

Somebody: Who is the main character?

What: What happened? What event(s) took place?

Wanted: What does the main character want?

When: When did the event take place?

But: What is the problem?

Where: Where did the event take place?

So: How does the character solve the problem?

Why: Why did this event take place?

You can also ask:

Why did things turn out this way?

Why is this message important?

Then: How does the story end?

How: How were things resolved?

This is how we do it

Explore the following episode of TVOK News. As you listen and/or watch the video, keep track of the Five W’s and H using the printable Nonfiction Summary template or another method of your choice.

Press the ‘Activity’ button to access the Nonfiction Summary.

Press ‘Nonfiction Summary Example’ to reveal the Nonfiction Summary Example.

Nonfiction Summary Example
WHO: Who or what is involved? Daniel from TVO Kids News and David Suzuki
WHAT: What happened? What event(s) took place? In this episode, Daniel shares the featured story of the week which is about climate change. Daniel introduces environmental activist, David Suzuki, to explain what it is.
WHEN: When did the event take place? Climate change is happening now.
WHERE: Where did the event take place? On planet Earth.

WHY: Why did the event take place?

You can also:

Why did things turn out this way?

Why is this message important?

Human activities have increased carbon dioxide emissions, which are driving up the Earth’s average temperatures. David Suzuki explains that forest fires in Canada and a lot of hurricanes in the Carribean are examples of the effects of global warming.

HOW: How were things resolved? We can’t fix climate change, but we can work together to reduce our carbon footprints. Daniel suggests taking public transit, carpooling, or booking.


Select and summarize!

Select a nonfiction text to summarize. This can be a news article, textbook, biography or autobiography, or another informational text.

Record your summary using the following fillable and printable Nonfiction Summary template. You can also record your summary in your notebook or use another method of your choice.

Press the ‘Activity’ button to access the Nonfiction Summary. 

Let’s reflect

Use the following questions to reflect on your learning:

  1. How does summarizing passages help you to make sense of a text?
  2. What is something you have learned about creating a summary?


As you read through these descriptions, which sentence best describes how you are feeling about your understanding of this learning activity? Press the button that is beside this sentence.

I feel...

Now, record your ideas using a voice recorder, speech-to-text, or writing tool.

Press ‘Discover More’ to extend your skills.

Create a 10-word summary. You can shorten the summary that you created earlier or create a 10-word summary for another nonfiction text that you have recently read. Then, compare it to your longer summary.

Record your 10-word summary using a method of your choice.

  • Which summary did you prefer to create? Explain your thinking.
  • Which summary do you think would provide someone with a better overview of the topic or story?