Summarizing v. Reflection

Heres a Tweet that came @learnteachtech this afternoon from @PaulV8:
@learnteachtech might you have anything to stress the difference between summary and reflection?my #avid students don't get it.

In the AVID classroom, where I'm lucky enough to guide middle school students, we talk a ton about reflection. We also do a fair amount of summarizing.

One summarizing activity that we do is GIST (its in the Tutorial Strategies book). Basically, we take a topic and sum it up in 20 words after the activity or discussion. It can also be a good discussion starter to do the GIST first. The 20 words can be Wordle like (just words) or a couple of sentences.

I also have them write Tweets (w/o computers) on notecards. They get 140 characters. I like GIST and Tweets because it's short but complex to get a main idea into a few words.

Summarizing is main ideas. What is the point? What was it about?

Reflection is thinking about what happened. What did you do well? What specifically did you learn? How did your group operate? What could the teacher have done better? Where did your group go wrong? If you could change the activity, what would you do?

I've talked about meta-cognition in AVID: thinking about thinking. I tell my students that adults, especially teachers, do this all the time. We don't leave a training without spending a few minutes thinking about the learning and what we take away from it, how it could be better, or what the best part was. I tell them that feedback for the instructor is important. What can you tell me that would make me a better teacher. They seem to enjoy telling me what I could do better.

Reflection v. Summarizing. Two very specific things. My one piece of advice: give starters for each or give guiding questions for each. Students will eventually figure it out.


  1. Hello, I'm Taylor. I'm in AVID. AVID, I think is very helpful! We get extra help, that other kids do not get. I think that a reflection, is reflecting what you did that day in tutorials. You have to add in when and how you are going to use this information. A summary, just sums up the importance of what we learned in tutorials. In conclusion, AVID is a very helpful program to be in.

  2. Hi Taylor! Thanks for the comment. I'm glad that you are in AVID and seeing the value.

    I think you summed it up well. Basically, summarizing is the "what" and reflection is the "why."

  3. Hello Knaus, I find your blog very interesting and I think your thoughts on Reflections and Summarizing help clear up all the fuss most AVID students have trouble with. Reflecting is exactly like going back and thinking about what you did and thinking of better ways to teach yourself and learn from others. Summarizing on the other hand is more of an overview of what you learned. I really appreciate you posting this because I now finally understand the difference between the two. Thanks!

  4. So for the longest time in AVID I pretty much just wrote the same thing in my reflection as I did in my summary. That was because I had no idea on earth what the difference was! Now that I have read your blog I really do understand it like how did the tutors help, what could they have done to make it better, how can I use what I learned in daily stuff. It's all clear now! thanks so much.

  5. @Nick & Chelsea

    Glad I could help!

    @Chelsea-You mentioned tutors...I'm spoiled with my tutors. They do a great job of reinforcing the difference b/w summary and reflection during the tutorials.

    @Taylor, Nick & Chelsea - What grade are you guys and where are you from? I'd love to share your comments with my AVID students and show them that I am teaching and learning outside of school and outside of Minnesota.

  6. I teach AVID in a high school in St. Augustine, Florida. We have about 60 students in the second year of our program. There will be more of the students writing to you soon. Perhaps your students can write back?

  7. Hello I'm Qiana.I'm in AVID.The Avid elective is very helpful in many ways.One is that we get extra help in are classes that other students do not have the opportunity to have.I believe reflection is what you learned in tutorials and how your going to use that later on.Summary is just summing up your notes.Avid is there to give you that extra help if you need it.

  8. Hello, I'm Matthew. I'm in the avid program at my highschool in florida. Avid is a very helpful class for me because when i don't understand or don't get somthing in a class in know that i will get help on this in tutorials. Untill a few week ago i was writing the same thing in my reflection that was in my summary. Now i know that a reflection is what you learned and reflecting on that tutorial for that day. A summary is just what the main point were during tutorials.I plan to stay in AVID all four years here at Pedro Menendez.

  9. Hello, my names Sarah. I'm in AVID also, and I agree with everyone else that says AVID is here to help us. This is true because we get the extra help that none of the other kids get in our high school. For the first couple of weeks of school, on my tutorial forms I put the exact same thing for both my summary and reflection. But, I finally realized that a reflection is basically just reflecting on what went on during your group's discussion/tutor session. A summary is summarizing your notes into 2-3 sentences, so when you go back a week later to study for a test it’s easier to remember 2-3 sentences instead of 2 pages of notes.

  10. Hello, I am in AVID along with the the others commenting on your post. AVID helps me a lot mainly because of the tutorials that help me with my classes. In my reflections I write about what I did that day and how I am going to use that information. In my summary I am just bringing down some key points from the notes that day. Thank you for this helpfun information

  11. Hello, I'm Jose. I am an Avid student. I just wanted to thank you for this post it has help alot, believe it or not. I now understand in more depth the real difference between a reflection and a summary. The only thing different that we learned when we talked in class about reflections is that our teacher challened us to write about how we would use what we learned in tutorials on a everyday basis. Thanks for your help and you time. Bye

  12. Hello, I'm Alex. AVID is about one of the most useful electives you can take. I usually make my summary almost completely the same as my reflection, but in my reflection I would talk about how I could apply it what I learned to real life. The difference between the two is that a summary is what you learned and a reflection is your thoughts on what was discussed and how you feel about it. Now I realize the importance that both of these serve, as thought provokers.

  13. Hello, I am Kiel I am in AVID and this is my first year in AVID. I used to be confused about the difference in reflection and summary but after reading your post, I understand and I also see the importance in both of them and how they help you retain knowledge. Thank you for all your help Kiel.


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