Summary Strategy: SWBST

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SWBAT summarize a fictional story using the SWBST strategy.

Big Idea

To end the seven day unit on fictional elements, students will write a short summary of our second text by answer the prompts: Someone, Wanted, But, So, Then.

Unit Introduction

The lessons housed within this unit all provide practice on specific skills or strategies. Some lessons were written to see what students remember and/or can do at the beginning of the year. Others were used to re-teach groups of students who hadn’t quite mastered the chosen skill when it was first introduced. Still others were designed to give students meaningful practice while I conducted required testing.

All lessons used texts that were familiar or easily decodable so that students’ energies were spent on skill practice rather than trying to just make sense of the text itself. Many lessons include reproducibles that were made with graphics from Kevin and Amanda’s Fonts, Teaching in a Small Town, and Melonheadz Illustrating.

In these seven lessons, we tackle identifying fictional elements, describing main characters, summarizing, and making connections between texts by comparing and contrasting characters. The texts we are using are The Pain and the Great One (Blume, J. (1985). The pain and the great one. Bantam Publishing: New York, New York.) and My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother (Polacco, P. (1998). My rotten redheaded older brother. Simon and Schuster: New York, New York.).

Setting a Purpose

20 minutes



Today we try our hand at summarizing. Years ago, I heard of the SWBST strategy and have used it ever since. I think it is a fabulous way of quickly summarizing a fictional story that follows a conventional plot line of introducing character, character has a problem, character tries to fix the problem, problem is solved, and story ends. My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother fits this pattern well.

I chose not to re-read this book to the students as they already had two experiences with it. However, if things did not go well during the previous two days of lessons, then re-reading the story might be a good idea! I write the SWBST prompts on chart paper with a few guiding questions:

Someone - who is the story mainly about?

Wanted - what did this character really want in the story?

But - what was the problem in the story - OR - what got in the character’s way of getting what he wanted?

So - what did the character do in response or to fix his problem?

Then - how did the story end?


I did this differently with my two classes. Some students in my morning group struggle to write complete sentences. So with this entire group, we worked together to simply answer the prompts. We came up with:

Someone: Patricia

Wanted: to be better than her older brother at something

But: she kept failing at her mission (I love this!)

So: she made a wish and tried the merry-go-round

Then: her brother helped her and they became friends

In my afternoon class, most students are capable of writing complete sentences independently. So with this group, we worked together to write a paragraph summarizing the main parts of the story. We came up with:

Patricia, the little sister, wanted to be better than her brother at something. She kept trying, but her brother always beat her. She made a wish and tried to win on the merry-go-round. Then her wish came true and she started being friends with her brother.

In follow up lessons on summarizing, I will have my morning class write paragraphs like the afternoon class. But, for now, this served as a great introduction to writing a summary that seemed manageable for all students.

It’s important for everyone to know that the SWBST prompts are just that - prompts. When writing paragraphs, they don’t necessarily have to start each sentence with a word from the prompt. In the afternoon class’s example, they did not start the third sentence with “so”. This is fine! The prompts are there to help guide their thinking and ensure that they cover all of the important parts rather than serve as a stringent format for writing.

Independent Practice

30 minutes

After completing their work, students move into independent practice. Today they are asked to:

1. Choose a fiction book from their reading record that they recently finished. Summarize the book using the SWBST strategy. Record their work in their readers’ notebook. 

2. Continue reading their current fiction text independently.  

While students work, I conduct independent and small group conferences.




10 minutes

At the end of the work time, students share their work with their reading partners. As students talk, I walk the room looking for great examples of both types of responses that can be shared with the group as a whole.