What's a Summary?

2 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

Big Idea

Students use a fan as a tool to summarize a story by recognizing events at the beginning, middle and end of the story.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

The students then clear their space and walk to take a seat on their assigned spot on the rug.

I sit at the front of the rug area ready with the book needed for the lesson.

I show the students the cover of the book and read the title of the book. “The title of this book is The Seven Chinese Sisters, by Kathy Tucker and illustrated by Grace Lin. If the title of our book reads The Seven Chinese Sisters, what do you think this book is going to be about?”

I select two or three students to express their predictions to the class. I only select two or three students to share their prediction so the rest of the class does not get bored and cause a disruption.

When a student expresses his/her prediction, for example, “Seven Chinese sisters,” I extend the answer by asking, “What are they going to do?” If a student responds with “Play with each other,” I may even go one step further by asking, “Why do you think they will play with each other?” Perhaps they will reply with, “Because that is what I do with my brother/sister.”

Next, I tell the students the person who wrote this story is Kathy Tucker. “If she wrote the words, what is she called?” Hopefully a student will raise his/her hand and say “An author.” If no students are able to answer the question I tell the students, “The person who writes the words in a book is called an author.”

I repeat this process by saying, “Grace Lin drew the pictures. If she drew the pictures what is she called?” Hopefully a student will raise his/her hand and say, “The illustrator.” If no students are able to answer the questions I tell the students, “The person who draws the pictures in a book is called the illustrator.”

I ask the students if anyone knows what the word summary means. “Does anyone know what the word summary means?”I have yet to come across a student who knows what the word means. “Well the word summary means a short version, or a short idea of what something is about. For example, instead of telling you the whole story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I could give you a summary of the story to tell you what it is about. The story Goldilocks and the Three Bears is about a little girl who goes into a house owned by three bears. She eats their food, breaks a chair and sleeps in a bed. The three bears come home from their walk and find her in the bed. She wakes up; runs away and the three bears never see her again.”

I ask the students to pay close attention to the story we are about to read because I am going to ask them to summarize, give me a summary, of the story when it is over. “While I am reading the book I want you to pay close attention to the story so that you will be able to tell me very briefly what the book is about.”    

Now I go ahead and read the story to the students. 

Explanation of why I chose this book to read - Book Selection/Choice


45 minutes

While I am reading the book I ask the students questions about some of the details throughout the book. For example, “Why do you think the littlest sister is not standing straight and tall?”

I will also model myself paying close attention to the story by stating what I am thinking after a page has been read. “Ah so in the beginning of the story I am introduced to the sisters by the author telling me what special skill each sister has.”

On another page towards the middle I will say, “Here is pretty important because little sister has said her second word which helps save her life.” 


At the end of the story I have my SMARTBoard ready for use. I have the screen already divided into three sections and labeled – beginning, middle and end. I tell the students that we are going to summarize the story together.

I ask the students to raise their hand if they can tell me what happened at the beginning of the story. I select a student who is following the correct classroom procedure of raising his/her hand to respond.

"You are right Juneau; we met the seven sisters.” I write the response in the section labeled beginning. If none of the students were able to recall the beginning of the story I prompt them with the line, "Seven sisters standing straight and tall..."  

Next I ask the students to raise their hand if they can tell me what happened in the middle of the story. This is the hardest one because many of the students have different opinions on what happened in the middle. I model where the middle of the story is by counting the page numbers and then we decide from there where the most important part of the story is. I record the group decided response in the section labeled "Middle Event." 

Finally I ask the students to raise their hand if they can tell me what happened at the end of the story. "Who can tell me what happened at the end of the story?" Once again I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand.

"Well done Rachel; the littlest sister did become the best story teller in the world." I write this event in the last section on the SMARTBoard labeled "End Event."


Now I tell the students they will be making a summary of this book inside a fan. I pull out my copy of the fan book for the students to see. I always like to make a model of the activity because this becomes a clear example for my visual and English language learners.

Summary Cover                      Beginning                            Middle                               End 

Before beginning the activity remember to have the supplies ready at the tables to cut down on loss of instruction time. You will need to have a copy of a pre-made fan book (one for each student), pencils, crayons and a copy of the book available for students to reference.

Fan Book Directions

Before having the students go to the work area I remind the students to use their resources such as the SMARTBoard and the story book itself if they forget which event belongs where. I also like to remind the students to take pride in their work by drawing carefully so other people can use their illustration as a picture clue.

"Once you have drawn your illustration of the three main events from the story in your fan, you will need to label your work. You can use the model fan book as a resource to write your labels. There will also be a piece of paper at the station with the words beginning, middle and end written on it." 

Now I send the students back to their seats a few at a time to maintain a safe environment in my classroom.

"Station number one go have some fan book fun. 

Station number two you know what to do. 

Station number three I hope you were listening to me, and

Station number four you shouldn't be here anymore."

Allow the students about 15-20 minutes to complete the task.  

The Importance of Summarizing.


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

I ask students to bring their work to the rug with them.  

Once everyone is seated on their spot I ask each student to share their best page with the rest of the class. For example, “Jo can you please tell us which part of the story you chose to share and why?” Many of the students like to share the page with the dragon on it, but others like the end where she becomes the very best story teller in the world. 

Student Beginning samples          Student Middle Event samples           Student Ending samples

After the student has shared his/her work with the class he/she can use the hand sanitizer and go over to get his/her snack. I collect the work back before they go to use the hand sanitizer so that I may go over it with the checklist.

This activity often sparks some story discussion while the students are eating snack which is a nice way to closeout the lesson.  


10 minutes

Call the each student over during a time which fits into your classroom schedule. I call my students over to work with me during free choice centers time or at integrated work station time (only if I have enough parent volunteers and I am not working a station myself).

Show the student a copy of a story we have previously read in class. Ask the student to show you the beginning, the middle and the end of the story.

Ask the student to tell you a summary of the story. Use the Summation Assessment to record student responses. 


When I go over the student work I attach the Seven Chinese Sisters Checklist document for parents and students to go over. This allows the child's family members to see how the child is performing in class. 


At one of the other work stations I had the students complete the Dragon Writing Prompt “If I had a pet dragon I would…”


At another work station the students wrote about what their super skill would be. This helped the students make a connection to the characters of the story we had read. The writing prompt began with "My super skill would be ..."