SOS: Summer Twist on Whittle It Down

School’s out for summer and your Discovery Education Community members are putting a twist on our SOS series.  Each week we will post how educators have taken their favorite strategies and made them their own.


Whittle It Down

Original PDF and Vignette

Twist provided by Francie Snyder from Manatee County in Florida.  You can learn more about Francie by following her on Twitter at @digiduchess.

The Whittle It Down strategy is designed to build summarization skills by having students work independently, then work collaboratively as part of a small group, and finally collaborate as a whole class to ‘whittle down’ a list of vocabulary words that are most important to understanding the topic being studied. This final list is then used to compose a summary of the topic.

This spring my students worked on a collaborative project where they compared and contrasted the version of John Wilkes Booth in our textbook to other resources. Students individually wrote down five words that they felt define John Wilkes Booth, based on the book Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. Next, I grouped students in threes or fours to discuss and the groups created a list of only three words that could be used to describe Booth. After that, we created a class list of all the words from the smaller groups. From our class list, students selected three words and used text evidence to create a description of Booth. Then, we used a Frayer Model as a reference to help students clearly define a character by looking for text evidence in Booth’s looks, thoughts, actions and other thoughts about him.

Your students can continue to repeat this process with the other resources.  This gives them ample opportunity to explore various viewpoints and whittle down to just the most important information. The Whittle it Down strategy enables students to focus on the most important characteristics from the sources that they use.


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