Magnetic Summary


The purpose of this strategy is to help students with the difficult task of condensing and organizing information. This strategy helps students to learn how to organize key information that becomes the basis for student-created summaries while using new vocabulary from the unit at the same time.


  1. Each pair of students is given the name of a person, place, event, etc. from the unit.

  2. Teacher distributes cards with 5-7 key words or phrases about each person, place, or event to students.

  3. Students work with a partner and create 3-5 sentences using the words and phrases from the card that summarize the person, place or event they have been given.

  4. Students pair with another pair with the same person, place or event to compare, combine, and correct their summaries.

Adaptation for Online/Distance Learning

  1. Synchronous

    1. Using breakout rooms, the teacher creates multiple cooperative groups.

    2. The teacher assigns each room a different google slide with different keywords and phrases to use to create their summary sentences.

  2. Asynchronous

    1. Each student sees the same keywords and phrases and creates their own summary sentences to post in a discussion thread.

    2. Classmates review the summary sentences of others and comment with a +(plus) 𝚫 (delta-change) suggestion: + what the writer did well; 𝚫 what the writer can change to make the sentences better.

Helpful Tips

  1. Explain the concept of “magnet words” to students (words that other details and bits of information are attracted to like a magnet, e.g. adjectives, adverbs, intensifiers.)

  2. This activity is best suited to do after the first half of the unit is complete. Students should not do this activity unless they already know 80-85% of the vocabulary.

  3. Variation #1: Students prepare 5-7 “magnet” words about themselves, others they know, or other key people, places, or events, writing them on cards. The teacher collects the cards and distributes them randomly. In pairs or individually students write 3-5 summary sentences based on the card they receive.

  4. Variation #2 (Intermediate): Students read a short text, story, or conversation. After they read they work with a partner to choose 5-7 words and phrases that are most important to the meaning or point of the text. Pairs write each magnet word or phrase on an index card and add details from the text that go with the story. Students trade cards with another pair and write a summary based on the new cards. Class orally compares the summaries derived from each set of cards.


  1. Students work in small groups rather than pairs.

  2. Students use a writing placemat with transition and sequencing words.

  3. Teacher creates alternate sets of cards with more keywords and phrases.


  1. Pre-selected “magnet” words based on a key concept, person, place, event, or magnetic summary graphic organizer (see sample below)

  2. 3x5 cards or teacher cut card stock

Sample Materials

Click a thumbnail to see a larger version.