Synthesizing Events = The Big Idea of the Story

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SWBAT sequence events of a story, draw pictures to match each event, and write a big idea of the story.

Big Idea

Synthesize and Relate New Information to Prior Knowledge!

Activate Prior Knowledge

5 minutes

Students, the cool thing about this book is that the author, Jeanette Winter, got the idea for this book after reading a newspaper article.

This is a story about how one person can make a difference.  Turn and talk with your partner and compare ideas about people you know who have made a difference in other peoples lives.

Post what students say.  

"These are great ideas.  As you can see you already have a lot of background knowledge about people who have made a difference.


Read Aloud

10 minutes

"Please come up to the rug so that you can see the pictures as you listen to the words.  This story, The Librarian of Basra, is based on a true event and a real person named Alia Mohammad who was a librarian in Basra, Iraq.

Show map.

"In 2003 her country was invaded and a war broke out.  This is a true story about a librarian's struggle to save her community's priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of reading and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries.

Listen as I read this story to you.  After you hear the story your job will be to retell it.  First to your self and then to your partner."

Read the story.  

Say, "Now it is your turn to practice retelling a story.  Make sure you use transition words.  These are words that show the passing of time." 

Show list of transition words

Direct the students retell the story to themselves and then to their partner- retelling across their finger and using transition words to show passage of time and sequence of events.  Listen in.  

After a couple of minutes comment on what you heard the students sharing.  Say, "Students I want to give you a tip:  It is important to use transition words when you retell a story because this helps the listener understand the order of events.  Listen now as I retell." 

(I am emphasizing the use of transition words because I notice that students are not consistently using them when they retell a passage to me as I am assessing their reading levels.)

Retell the story saying, 

"The Librarian of Basra is a true story that takes place in 2003 in the city of Basra in the country of Iraq.  When the country was invaded, Alia, the librarian was worried about the books in her library. She was afraid that they would be destroyed.  So she started taking the books home a few at a time to keep them safe.  Next, she asked the neighbors if they would help her.  Then, they moved all of the books into a restaurant next door.  Soon afterwards a bomb hits the library and it burns down. Eventually, Alia hires a truck to help her move the books from the restaurant to her home.  Now she waits, waits for her city to be able to rebuild the library so she came once again be the librarian of Basra."

Depending on time, I might have one partner retell a second time, making sure they include transition words.  I will direct the listener to give the reteller feedback on whether they included transition words.

Independent Work

20 minutes

Before sending students back to their seats tell them that they will be using a graphic organizer to sequence the main events.  "This activity is like the one you did after you heard The Three Questions."  You will need scissors and a glue stick.  Will the materials person from each table please pass them out.  Now, I would like the encouragers to come up to help pass out our graphic organizer.

Once students are seated, say,, "First, lets have a student read the six main events in this story.  You can follow along with the reader by looking at the captions at the bottom of your page.

Take a minute to cut out the six captions at the bottom of the page.  Then, will the leaders recycle everyone's paper scraps at the table, quickly and quietly.

Wait until everyone is ready to hear the story, Say, " Your job is to reorder the captions and sketch a picture for each caption in the six boxes.  And to write the big idea of the story at the top of the page.  It is important when we read stories to think about what the message of the story is.  This way we can learn from stories and the people in stories become role models for us.

Make sketches of what you see in your mind using the  pictures in the book help you visualize.  Yesterday when you did this activity with the story, The Three Questions, you really did a great job with your work.  I can tell by looking that it was your best work and that you worked with care and effort.  I want everyone to do their best work today.

Feel free to use colored pencils to finish your sketches.  Remember that a sketch should have a foreground, middle ground, and background.  It is similar to how a story has a beginning, middle, and end.  Also, I would like for you to fill in the picture and not leave a lot of white space.  Leaving a lot of white space in your drawing makes it look more like a poster than a drawing.


5 minutes

As students are working and about completed with the sequencing and drawing task, have a few students come up and share their work.  Ask them to read what they wrote at the top of their paper for the big idea of the story.

Remind students to write the big idea at the top of their paper next to their name.