The job was a half-day 6th grade class in the afternoon. The Social Studies homework assignment was to locate a recent local, state or world news story and summarize it for the rest of the class. The result was less summarization and more copying verbatim the actual news article to read.
I’m sure that once the teacher saw the handed in work, the definition of “summarization” would be a follow-up lesson on Monday morning. A few actually read and summarized the news story as instructed, demonstrating the skills needed to extract and comprehend written information.
Then we came around to Henry (not his real name). When I called on him for his turn to “stand and deliver”, he began fumbling around his backpack for the homework assignment.
You’d think that he would have been ready since we had over half the class do theirs before we got around to him. After what seemed like several minutes rummaging, I asked if he had done the homework, while getting ready to mark his assignment missing.
Henry: Yea, yea! My Mom picked it out. I just can’t find it.
Me: Well then, just tell me briefly what it was about.
Me: Did you write a summary?
Me: …but you don’t know what it’s about?
Henry: I forgot.
Henry finally locates his homework about the hoax bomb threat to the Eiffel Tower last week. He reads the news story verbatim and turns it in. The story is a Yahoo News page print from the website and the attached news summary is an excellent computer printed summarization of the events from Paris, France.
Me: Did your Mom write this summary?
Henry: (short pause) No?
Me: Hmmm…Henry? The article is about the Eiffel Tower, right?...Where IS the Eiffel Tower?
Henry: (longer pause)…New Zealand?
(Collective murmurs from the class): OMG! Henry…Paris!
Henry: No, no…Paris!
Me: And where is Paris? What country?
(Collective groan from the class)
Note to the teacher: Henry’s Mom does excellent summarization work!