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Summarize Stories with Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then

October 18, 2022

Summarize Stories with Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then

The hardest part in summarizing a story is determining what to leave out. Guide students to generate a succinct, objective, and accurate summary by providing a frame.

A frame identifies what to include in the summary and the order the information should be presented. Applying it in the process of writing a summary ensures that ONLY the most important details about the story elements are included.

Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then - Icons in a Row

Teach the whole class

Most narrative texts can be retold using the same frame: (Somebody) wanted… but… so… then… Introduce it and connect each word in the frame to the story element is represents.

  • Somebody is replaced by the name(s) of the main character(s).
  • Wanted is followed by what the character wishes, wants, anticipates, or hopes for. This reveals the character’s motivation.
  • But reveals the conflict. It reveals why the character can’t immediately have his wish.
  • So outlines the obstacles, consequences, and suspense that worsen the problem through rising action.
  • Then transitions to the solution or resolution. It describes how things ended up for the character.
Summarize Stories with Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then Downloadable Resource

Graphic Organizer | PDF | Smartboard

Notice that the words in the frame not only represent the key ingredients of the plot, but they also follow the same chronological order of the original text. That is essential in any objective summary—it should match the text structure of the original text.

After revealing the facets of a story summary, model its application using several previously-read and well-known texts. Depending on the grade level, execute I-do models using the icons within pocket charts or one of the digital versions.

For several days, model how to recall the relevant details for each story element and insert them into the frame. Use a variety of previously-read texts including fairy tales, picture books, short stories, animated video shorts, and historical narratives. (NOTE: This frame only works for narrative texts that include a plot.)

Support in guided-reading groups

After several whole-class lessons, guide students to experiment with the skill within teacher-led small groups. Using leveled texts, students read and work together to orally summarize the key supporting details. Hand each student one of the icons from the frame and conduct a shared summary.

While students are orally summarizing their parts, the teacher scribes the writing onto an enlarged graphic organizer. (NOTE: The graphic organizer can be recreated onto large chart paper, projected using the PDF version, or displayed as a Notebook file on the Smart Board.) This scribing activity teaches students how to incorporate key details within well-structured sentences of the frame.

Release to practice

Once students show understanding in whole-class lessons and small-group experiences, it’s time to gradually release them to practice within literacy stations. Examples might include:

  • LISTENING STATION—Students listen to a text and orally summarize it using the pocket-chart cards.
  • FLUENCY STATION—Partners read and orally summarize a text using the pocket-chart cards.
  • CLASSROOM LIBRARY—After reading, students individually summarize key details orally using the cards and/or in writing using the graphic organizer.

After several opportunities for independent practice, assess students’ summarization skills. Provide them with a grade-appropriate text to independently read and summarize—in one sitting.

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Deborah Klag
Deborah Klag
1 year ago

Thank you so much! I love this!

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