If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Summarizing stories | Reading

David explains summarizing as retelling main ideas in a shorter way. He uses "The Three Little Pigs" as an example, highlighting the important characters, their decisions, and the story's outcome. He warns against including too little or too much information: summaries need the story's events, characters, and problems.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- [David] Hello, readers. Today, I'll make a video about summaries. A summary retells the main ideas of a passage, but in a much shorter version. Cool, great, done, you can learn anything. David out. (David snort-laughs. It is charming and not gross.) Sorry, I made a goof, see, I summarized what was gonna happen in this video, right, I took the information I was gonna tell you, and I shortened it. This is what the skill of summarizing is. I just applied it to this video instead of to a story. When you summarize, you have to ask yourself, what are the most important facts? What are the most important details? You're a reporter, a stringer, a journal, your job is to get in, get the facts and get out. It's the news in brief, just the facts, man. Take The Three Little Pigs, for instance. I'll summarize it now. (clearing throat) Three little pigs live in houses that they built. One used straw, one used wood, and the third pig, who worked hardest of all, built a brick house. Along comes a big, bad wolf, pictured here with a big, bad top hat, and a big, bad house wrecking hammer, I don't know, and he successfully knocks down the first two houses in order to eat the pigs inside, but they escaped to the brick house, which the wolf is unable to knock down. That's the important parts of the story, and I bet I can even cut that down a little bit. But here's what's there. All the important characters, all their major decisions, and the outcome of the story. We have the beginning, the middle and the end. Now let me show you what too little information looks like. There were three pigs. They build houses. A big, bad wolf tried to get them. Not enough. That's not enough information, it doesn't tell us whether or not the wolf succeeded or the important differences between the three pig houses. Not enough as far as facts go. You know, it's gotta be specific, and look, it's possible to live on the opposite direction too. Too many irrelevant facts. So there were three pigs. One's name is Horace, another's name was Pansy, and the third's name was Flustopher, they had all been friends since middle school, and when the market was in a good place, all three of them decided to go in for plots of land right next to each other. Ah, right, but that's too much. In a summary, I don't need the whole story. If it were the whole story, it wouldn't be a summary. It'll just be the whole story all over again. Keep it simple. We need the events of the story in the order they happened in. We need the characters and we need the problems they face, and for a summary, that's kind of it. You can learn anything; David out, for real this time. Bye.