Countdown Summary

Purpose:  To give learners practice with verbally summarizing a reading text

Preparation Time:  None

Materials Needed:  A class reading text


  1. After learners complete a reading, give them a few minutes to think of the main ideas. Ask prompting questions like, “What was the most important information from the reading?” or “What would people need to know to understand the reading?”
  2. Pair up all of the learners with a partner. Explain that one of the partners will speak and explain what they read in the article, while the other one listens.
  3. Let the first learner speak for two minutes. After calling time, have the learners switch roles so that the second learner in the pair has the opportunity to speak. Have them speak for two minutes.
  4. Have all of the learners find a new partner. Repeat steps 2 and 3, but this round, let each partner speak for one and a half minutes. This will force them to condense their retelling of the reading.
  5. Have all of the learners find a new partner. Repeat steps 2 and 3, but this round let each partner speak for only one minute.
  6. If you have time, ask for volunteers to give the class a 30 second summary of the reading.

Expansion: After completing the speaking activity, have the class tell you the most important points that they spoke about during their final one minute summary. Write the points on the board. Then have the learners sit down and write up a summary of the reading. Encourage them to keep it as short and succinct as possible.

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