Making key connections between reading & writing

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By Jamie L. Scheppers

Building skills that'll make writing reports easier

Both of these skills are indispensable for report writing. While it isn’t normal practice to paraphrase and summarize when reading for fun, there are ways you can help your child learn these skills. If your child comes to you with a question on a subject that is new to him, direct him to the encyclopedia. Because the entries often are written for adults, he may have difficulty understanding the text. This is a perfect opportunity for him to practice paraphrasing and summarizing. Also, the time taken to do this and the active role that your child will have taken both ensure that the information will be retained better than if you had verbally answered the question.

Making a book jacket is another activity that will give your child summarizing practice. This one is a little more fun and integrates art as well. After reading a book, have your child write a short summary of the book and create a new cover design. This helps your child learn to summarize large works in a brief manner. It reinforces the skill of selecting the topic of the book. You may find you have a budding book reviewer on your hands.

Practice paraphrasing and summarizing

Here's a little practice paraphrasing and summarizing (with answers to check your child's work!). It’s important that you review your child’s answers with him and explain why they are correct or not. The first exercise is a bonus provided to give your child practice in word choice and spelling of homophones — words that sound alike, but have different spellings and meanings. These types of words must be memorized. You may even find that you have trouble with some sets; many adults do.

Below are pairs of sentences. Decide whether or not the second sentence (B), which paraphrases sentence (A), has changed the original meaning of sentence (A). If the meaning has been changed, try to paraphrase the sentence so it retains the same meaning.

#1     A. The mouth was beaked and the jaws held leaf-shaped cheek teeth.
         B. It had a beak and leaf-shaped cheek teeth.

#2     A. The front wall or face of a building is termed the façade.
         B. A façade is the front wall (or face) of a building.

#3     A. They are retiring animals, not particularly inclined to attack people, but a jaguar may launch an attack or even stalk a human being if threatened.
         B. Jaguars may attack or stalk human beings if they feel threatened, but they stop doing this once they retire.

#4     A. Padre Island National Seashore is located in the undeveloped central part of the island, where more than 350 kinds of birds, and many small animals, reptiles, and varied marine life are found.
         B. Padre Island National Seashore has more than 350 kinds of birds, small animals, reptiles and marine life forms. It is the undeveloped center of the island.

#5     A. Moisture-laden air over the oceans is drawn toward this center of low pressure. The air cools as it ascends the slopes of mountain barriers; it can no longer retain moisture, resulting in heavy rainfall.
         B. The heavy rainfall comes from the moist air that cools as it rises near mountains. Low pressure pulls the air up the mountains.

The following is an excerpt from an encyclopedia. Read it thoroughly, and then write a summary. Remember, your summary should be shorter than the original and only contain the main points.

Earthquake – trembling or shaking movement of the earth's surface. Most earthquakes are minor tremors. Larger earthquakes usually begin with slight tremors but rapidly take the form of one or more violent shocks, and end in vibrations of gradually diminishing force called aftershocks. The subterranean point of origin of an earthquake is called its focus; the point on the surface directly above the focus is the epicenter. The magnitude and intensity of an earthquake is determined by the use of scales, e.g., the Richter Magnitude Scale and the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale.

Answer key

#1 Correct
#2 Correct
#3 Jaguars usually won’t attack or stalk humans unless they feel threatened.
#4 In addition to the many small animals, reptiles and types of marine life, there are more than 350 kinds of birds in Padre Island National Seashore, which is located in the undeveloped center of the island.
#5 Correct

Sample summary: Most earthquakes are small, but some are large and gradually become smaller before ending. These small movements are called aftershocks. Quakes start underground at the focus. The point above this on the surface is the epicenter. The Richter and Mercalli scales are used to measure quakes.

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