Precis Poems

Writing a precis (a summary or abstract of a text) is a key skill we practice in Pre-AP English 2.  We’ll read a text and boil it down to its most important ideas. The process is important, but it can get repetitive.  To keep things fresh, and to develop a little creative style, we’ll write poems about the key ideas from a text.

Grade Level/Age: 10th grade (15-16 years)

Curriculum Addressed: Reading comprehension and summary writing.

Process Goals: Students read individual texts, determine the most important ideas, and state those ideas in a poem.

Materials: Any text, really, can be used for this activity.  I usually will conduct a weekly editorial analysis from the New York Times that works well with the precis poem.

Desired Understandings: Students will hone their comprehension skills as they adapt traditional precis writing into poetry.


  1. Assign students a text to read.
  2. In groups, pairs, or individually, students use their rhetorical analysis squares to discuss and determine the article’s main points.  They rank the points from most to least important.
  3. Using a poetic structure of their choosing (or sometimes I will assign students a specific structure to use), students poetically communicate the three most important ideas from the text.
  4. Depending on the situation, students will either submit or recite their poems.  If they recite their poems, a discussion of their analysis and artistic choices will follow.


Standard 2: Reading for All Purposes

  1. Literary and historical influences determine the meaning of traditional and contemporary literary texts. 

Standard 3:  Writing and Composition

  1. Literary or narrative genres feature a variety of stylistic devices to engage or entertain an audience.
  2. Organizational writing patterns inform or persuade an audience.
  3. Grammar, language usage, mechanics, and clarity are the basis of ongoing refinements and revisions within the writing process.

Assessment:  I use our English Department’s AP Quick Write rubric to evaluate students’ poems.

Adaptions/Accommodations:  I find that English-language learners—and most of my students—enjoy these poems because it doesn’t “feel” like writing an essay.  As a result, I haven’t had to make many accommodations other than the number of key ideas for students to identify. With a little freedom in grammatical form, students like to explore vocabulary to find the perfect word.