Let's Summarize Literature and Make a Scene!

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SWBAT use story elements and questioning to retell a story and summarize the key points.

Big Idea

Let's Summarize with 'Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then' organizer and then act out the story!



I chose this book because it's a favorite of 2nd graders. Many of my kids had read this book or others in the series, so it was motivating. I chose to read it aloud to the kids because of the upper 2nd grade level and because of the length.

I did a similar lesson to this with another book and let the kids make movies on their iPads reading their summaries. That lesson was 'Let's Summarize Literature and Make A Movie.'

Let's Get Excited!

10 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Bring to a common learning point

  • “I brought some my favorite books today..  I'll just tell you about them - I'll summarize the story. “
  • Describe each book by using  “somebody, wanted, so, but, then…..“Did you notice how I told you about each book?  I was using the same words – ‘somebody, wanted, but, so, then’."  Those words help me tell you about the book in one sentence and give you a good summary.”
  • “I could tell you a long story about the book  - hold one up and take a deep breath -  “This may take a while if I tell you every detail.. you might fall asleep…. Well maybe I should just summarize and keep it short!”
  • “Today I’ll show you how to summarize the chapter of a GREAT chapter book that I read yesterday and then you can have turns summarizing the 2nd chapter to act out. 

Teachers' Turn

15 minutes

Review parts of a story

  • “Let’s take a moment to review story and see how they help us understand the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Refer to the story element headers. 
  • "Each story has these features:"
    • characters – who is in the story 
    • setting – where and when the story happened 
    • events – what happens in the story
    • problem – what happens to the main character
    • solution – how the character deals with the problem 
  • “To summarize, I’m going to use those words from my organizer 'who, wanted, so, but, then.'


Model and Guide

  • “Let’s try using the chart together with my book – Dragon Tales. I’ll read chapter 1 and then we’ll summarize together.”   Read the chapter.
  • "I'll ask some questions– who…where….when… what…how..   Those questions help me understand the story better and retell what happened.”


Students are using story organization to deepen their comprehension. Looking at the text features (RL.2.5) allows them to understand how the beginning introduced the action and ending concludes the action. Retelling the story and summarizing the main events gives students practice in finding main idea and the supporting details. (RL.2.2) The Common Core Standards have a shift to close reading and using evidence to verify answers to questions.  Students should be able to read ‘closely and deeply’ by asking questions and finding text-based answers. (RL.2.1)

  • "Now I’m ready to summarize…. ‘Dragon was in the forest and… he wanted a friend… so he asked many animals… but they were busy and… then the snake talked as an apple and dragon had a friend.” 
  • Write that summary on the board.
  • "Now I'll make some props to act it out, using fun voices to show the characters' point of view.”

The Students Take a Turn

15 minutes

Describe the task

  • “Now its your turn to summarize a chapter. Think about the story elements  and ask some questions."
  • Assign students a chapter to read.
  • "I want you to retell what happened  using your 'summarizing organizer'. Take a few moments to read the chapter.”
  • Now take a few minutes to ask yourselves some questions and fill out the organizer to make a good summary.  When you’re done, raise your hand and I’ll come over and check.”


Make sure students are picking the main problem and solutions and choose the main characters.  Ask them questions to model or have them tell you what question they used to fill in the organizer


Assess as they work

  • How they know that is the main character?... What was the problem? Did that character change? What was his/her point of view?

Apply What You've Learned

10 minutes

Explain the task

  • “Now that you have filled out the organizer, let's act out a scene to show that you understand what you read.  Think about the props that you’ll need.”  
  • Pass out dragon cutouts, some construction paper and some craft sticks. I put tape on the side of their desks so they could tape their characters onto the craft sticks.
  • "Cut your dragon and use the colored paper scraps to create 1-2 other props that you need. Pick a few details to use to act out the story and use parts on your summary. Keep it short so we don't fall asleep!"


Let kids work

  • Give the kids a few minutes – walk around and make sure they stick to the main details.
  • "Take a minute to practice acting out your summary with your props. Read your summary and move your prompts to show what happened. See if you can use some of the characters' voices to show point of view. How would a snake sound?  What would a monsters voice sound like?"
  • “Who wants to come up and share their summaries? Read your summary and tell us about your scene.”


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability. For special education students, you could read the chapter to them as a group or they could work together to read the chapter.  I would still challenge them to fill out the organizer, but you may need to write words on the board to prompt them.

For students with more ability, I would challenge them to give more details.  Instead of just relaying surface details and using vocabulary from the board, ask them to use some ‘juicy’ words as you check their organizer .