One-sentence Summary

#plenary #writing-skills #key-points #discussion

This is one possible ungraded written in-class activity. This exercise not only enhances comprehension, but also writing skills, and can provide you with valuable written feedback. Used at the end of the class, the one-sentence summary can be a good review of material just covered. At the beginning of the class, it can review material covered previously and serve as a starting point for the lecture of the day. The one-sentence summary can also be used in its own right to enhance general writing ability.
Illustration of a pen


  • The objective is for students to state the major point of an entire lecture or section in a limited amount of writing.
  • Select a recent issue covered in class, in relation to that issue, answer the following questions as quickly as possible in front of your students: “who did what to whom, when, where, how, and why?” and turn your answer into a grammatical sentence.
  • Announce another, similar topic to your students and give them five minutes or so to produce their own one-sentence summaries.
  • Collect these to determine if students recognized the key points of the lecture. One optional extension is to have students swap with the person next to them – have a few minutes’ silence for reading and formulation of comments, then a few minutes of discussion in pairs before discussing the summaries as a class.