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Teaching Summarizing With Fiction

Comprehension, Literacy

Written by: Angie Olson

When it comes to teaching summarizing, we often find our students looking at us with blank stares. Summarization is a literacy skill we use for every stage of our educational journey, but how can we teach summarizing in a way that our students truly understand it? Where do we begin? We are going to break down how you can teach kids to summarize fiction, and how to practice till it’s perfect!

Teaching summarizing with fiction text

Teaching Summarizing: Break it Down

A favorite way to teach summarizing is by breaking down the story into elements that students can remember with one hand. This tried and true strategy follows these 5 elements: somebody, wanted, but, so, then. Each of these can be used per finger to help students remember the following:

Somebody: Who is the main character in the story?

Wanted: What did the main character want?

But: What was the problem?

So: How did the main character solve this problem?

Then: How did the story end?

One great strategy for practice is to refer to stories your students are familiar with. Fairytales such as Cinderella are a great starting point! You can even throw in a few movies or shows you know are “in” at the moment. Another great idea is to take this and have your students work through these steps with partners or groups with various reading materials. This way when they move onto independent work they are ready and rearing to go!

Simplify the concept of summarizing with the SWBST strategy

Here is a fun song that goes through “somebody, wanted, but, so, then”:

Teaching Summarizing: Ways to Practice

Practice Makes Perfect

Just like any skill it really comes down to practice when we want our students to succeed. So practicing the skill over and over again is what is going to take students from huh? – to yes! We recently released 2nd grade leveled reading passages that target this skill through summarizing reading passages. This is a great opportunity to practice comprehension strategies while really practicing the specific skill of summarizing.

Teach summarizing with 2nd grade leveled reading passages

Download Reading Passages HERE

Help Those Visual Learners

When it comes to teaching summarizing, sometimes going back to the basics can be best! In this techy world, we live in, our students are presented with movies before they are shown a book. So quick clips and videos can reach those visual learners. You will be amazed at how quickly they can summarize a video clip and even those with no words! Plus students love a chance to watch a cute video.

This video is great for summarizing and a great addition to your video toolbox (warning you may shed some tears)!

Tried and True with Toothy

Whenever you have a skill you need to practice, never fear because Toothy is here! Our Fiction Reading Toothy is great for your students to practice summarizing skills, while also hitting on these other reading standards as well such as:

  • Character Traits
  • Compare & Contrast
  • Context Clues
  • Fairytales & Folktales
  • Inferences
  • Main Idea & Details
  • Sequencing
  • Shades of Meaning
  • Story Elements
Practice summarizing with the Toothy game!

Download Toothy HERE

Teaching Summarizing: Use Mentor Texts

When it comes to learning in the classroom read alouds are always a great way to learn a skill. They are a perfect way to watch, practice, and model the skills we want our students to learn. The books below are great options for your summarizing lesson.

Mentor Text Books: Note: These are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a book using the link, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Once you’ve selected your mentor text, a great way to practice is to have an anchor chart with the SWBST elements in front of your students. Keep this chart through several stories, and place sticky notes with the answers for each element in the columns that represent these elements. This way your students have an example to constantly refer to as they practice this standard in whole group and centers.

Simplify the Concept of Summarizing for 2nd Grade Students with SWBST

Search for Transition Words

A great way to summarize is to have your students put on those detective glasses and search for transition words! With a highlighter in hand have students look in passages for the words such as first, then, next, and finally. Having an anchor chart of these can help as well. This helps sequence the story and gives them a visible road map in the passage that they are summarizing.

Simplify summarizing with the "search for transitions" strategy

Color the Elements

This is a great practice for our students that love to have a crayon in hand! You can do this with any passage or story. Have your students color each of the elements in different colors for example:

Somebody = Red

Wanted = Orange

But =Yellow

So = Green

Then = Blue

They can do this with partners or individually. The best part is that they are not only finding these elements to create their summary but that they are practicing referring to text evidence as well. Making for a great practice and colorful paper! Our fiction passages offer a great option for this activity.

Feeling confident in this standard and ready to tackle the next? Here is a great post with 13 Powerful Reading Strategies your students should learn and how to take them.

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Teaching Summarizing With Fiction Text

1 Comment

  1. Meenakshi

    I love the way you have divided the passage to understand it in a better way. Even coloring also helps kids to do it with more interest.


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Hey there!  I’m Angie, owner of Lucky Little Learners. Our #1 goal is to support K-2 teachers.  We provide unlimited access to over 15,000 printables that are aligned to your standards.