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.
- Assign students a text to read.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Literary and historical influences determine the meaning of traditional and contemporary literary texts.
Standard 3: Writing and Composition
- Literary or narrative genres feature a variety of stylistic devices to engage or entertain an audience.
- Organizational writing patterns inform or persuade an audience.
- 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.