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        Summary, Symbolism and Levels of Meaning - The Healing Totem

        Students write a summary of a video segment and then rewrite it after a discussion of the video's symbolism. They reflect on how an understanding of the symbolism influenced their ability to summarize and comprehend the segment.

        Lesson Summary


        Students watch a video segment and write a summary about a symbolic totem pole. Then they discuss the video's symbolism, rewrite their summary and reflect on how an understanding of the symbolism influenced their ability to summarize the segment and their level of comprehension. 

        Why is this an important concept?

        When students can summarize the plot of a story or presentation, we know they understand the key points. Summarization involves putting the story into the student's own words, which helps students create meaning from texts. When learners can identify and interpret symbolism and different levels of meaning in texts, they gain a critical understanding of it. 

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time

        (3) 60-minute periods

        Media Resources


        The Lesson

        Part I: Learning Activity

        Day 1: Summarizing

        1. With students, read a paragraph from one of their textbooks. Ask students to write a one-sentence summary of what they just read. Students share their sentences with a classmate. Ask how they were able to write this one sentence to summarize the paragraph. What did they do to condense it to only one sentence?

        2. Discuss the five components of a summary: who or what it is about (character, event or place), context (time period, setting, etc.) and what happens or the main events from the beginning, middle and end of the reading.

        3. Tell students they are about to watch a segment called "The Healing Totem" and that for the first viewing they will just watch and listen. Ask students to pay attention to what they think are important ideas about the segment. Also ask them to pay attention to what happens at the beginning, middle and end of the segment.

        4. Students will write a summary. It is important not to discuss the meaning of the segment prior to the students writing. Allow them to express what meanings they extracted. Think of this as a pre-test for the activity. Students will reflect on this writing on Day 3.

        5. Collect the summaries. Assess using the Summary #1 criteria on the Healing Totem rubric.

        Day 2: Identifying Symbolism

        1. Discuss symbolism and create a class definition of it. Discuss several examples.

        2. Distribute the Healing Totem Symbolism handout. Discuss the first prompt: The totem pole symbolizes. Interactively construct a class response to this prompt.

        3. Show "The Healing Totem" video again. This time, ask students to pay attention to symbols in the segment (refer to those listed on the handout).

        4. After watching the segment, students take 10 minutes to work on the handout individually. Then, they meet in small groups to share their responses with classmates and discuss their interpretation of each symbol. They may revise and add to their worksheets as needed.

        5. Discuss students' responses as a whole class. Students add to or revise worksheets as needed.

        6. Students write a second summary of the video segment incorporating their new understandings of the symbolism. They will complete their summaries for homework if needed.

        Day 3: Recognizing Levels of Meaning

        1. Students share their summaries with each other.

        2. Hand back the summaries students wrote on Day 1. Students read both summaries.

        3. Distribute the Healing Totem Reflection handout for students to complete. Share and discuss students' responses.

        For students who need additional teacher guidance:
        • Provide opportunities for students to view segment additional times.
        • Provide assistance with writing the summaries as needed.

        Part II: Assessment

        Collect the Symbolism handout, the Reflection handout and Summary # 2. Score these remaining activity components with the Healing Totem rubric. Summary # 1 was previously scored on Day 1. 


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