Class Notes EDIS 771: Reading in Content Areas
Spring 1999
Thomas H. Estes, Instructor
University of Virginia

Strategies for Reading to Learn

Paired Summarizing



One strategy that involves cooperative learning after reading is paired summarizing. The goal is that students work together to elaborate their individual retellings of passages or stories they have read. Students are expected to complete an individual retelling before they come together as pairs. This initial step avoids much of the confusion and wasted time that occurs when students try to coordinate their work before they are individually prepared for the task. This procedure focuses students' attention on the importance of individual preparation and the value of community participation.


  1. Immediately after reading, a student writes a retelling of the selection.
    1. If students have difficulty remembering, they should refer to the text to verify or re-cue their thinking.
    2. The students are not permitted to write any of their retelling while they are looking back at the text.
    3. Students might want to compete with their partners to see who can write the most extensive retelling. The goal here is elaboration and you should tell students not to worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or other mechanical considerations.

  2. When finished, the students exchange papers with their partners. Partner A writes an abstract of Partner B's retelling and vice-versa.
    1. At this stage students are not allowed to converse with one another.
    2. If something is not clear to one of the partners, he or she must work to figure out what was intended.
    3. You can always change the rules if you wish to have students discuss their work at this stage.

  3. When the abstracts are completed, the pair discusses the retellings and abstracts. During the discussion they do each of the following:
    1. specify what each understood as readers of the retellings.
    2. identify what they collectively cannot come to understand in the passage of story they read to create their individual retellings.
    3. formulate questions for their classmates and teacher.

  4. When the students have completed these tasks, they convene as a class to discuss the questions prepared by each pair of students and/or to share the abstracts they have written.


Vaughan J. L. & Estes, T. H. (1986). Reading and reasoning beyond the primary grades. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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