Let's Summarize Literature and Make A Movie!

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

Big Idea

'Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then' ... Make a movie to show the summary.


  • Mercer Mayer books – one for each group (Here's some of the books that I used)
  • Summarizing organizer - 1 copy for each group
  • iPads for the students to make a movie - one per group but they can share
  • whiteboard setup
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: summarizing, literature, characters, setting, problem, solution, action
  • Group Rules poster 


** I chose these books because they are at late 2nd grade reading level and my kids love them!  The topics are pertinent for them (new baby, making a mess, etc.) and the story elements are very clear. They will be easy to summarize.

I did a follow up to this lesson, Let's Summarize Literature and Make A Scene, as a cornerstone lesson, if you want to check that out.

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)


Come to a common starting point and gather interest

  • I show the Little Critter movie, Just for You.
  • See who has read the books – talk about what the characters do, why the kids like them
  • “Today we are going to read some Little Critter books and you’ll have a chance to summarize these books in front of the camera.  You'll be the star reporter telling what your book is about.”

Teachers' Turn

15 minutes

Explain the task

  • Today we are going to read books in a group and summarize.  What does the word ‘summarize’ mean?”  Take ideas.
  • “When you summarize, you tell the main ideas of the story. I summarize to tell a friend about a story or a friend summarizes a story for me and then I can decide if I like it.”
  • “Here’s a great way to summarize. I’m going to use this organizer and these words to help me write a good summary.”  Reference the organizer on the board.
  • Let me show you how to summarize this book, I Just Forgot.”
    • “I need to use some questioning to help me.  Who is in the story? What happened? Why did it happen?” Refer to the story element headers for clues.
    • “These questions help me figure out what is important in the book.  If you ask yourself questions as you read or after you read, it will help you be an ‘active reader’ and understand the book better.”


Model the skill

  • Read the book.
  • “Now let’s use the summary organizer that’s on the board to make a summary statement.”  Write the words on the chart.
    • “The somebody is ‘Little Critter’. “
    • “The wanted is ‘he wanted to explain.’ “
    • “So…. So he said he forgot’. “
    • “But… ‘he never forgets to tell mom”
    • “Then… she reads him a book.”
    • This is the whiteboard chart looked like.
  • “The summary statement would be….. Little Critter wanted to explain things, but he said he forgets. But he never forgets to tell mom to read him a book.”  
  • “If I told my friend that summary, he would know what the book was about. I"ll make a movie of myself summarizing the book.”  Be a bit silly and ham it up. I used some great voices for the characters and lots of gestures. This is a model for the kids about using voice and and how to tell a summary that's engaging, instead of just a monotone report of what happened. When you're done, ask the kids... 'Did you hear my voice? What did I do to show the characters' voices? How could you tell that he was sorry? What did I do with my body language?'  The kids will make their own movies in groups.
  • Here is the completed whiteboard summary.


Students need to become actively involved in their reading. Close reading is a new shift in the Common Core Standards and encourages students to use questioning (RL.2.1), as well as other reading strategies to evaluate text as they read and when they are done. Students who ask questions about story elements (characters, setting, problem and solution) (RL.2.5)  ultimately find key information to create a good summary about the key points of the text. (RL.2.2)

Student's Turn

20 minutes

Explain the task

  • “Now it’s your turn to read and summarize. When you’re done, you can make a movie to show your summary.”
  • “We’ll be working in groups today and reading the book together. You can choose roles for each group member – reader, timekeeper, leader, writing leader.  Let’s review the rules for group work.”
  • “I’m passing out books and worksheets to each group. Read the book first and let me know when you’re ready for the summarizing worksheet.”


I wait to pass out the worksheets until I’m sure the group has read the book. The goal of these lessons is reading instruction and I want to ensure they’re not moving directly to the worksheet.

  • “Work together to fill out one worksheet for each group. Remember to keep it simple.  When you’re done, write a summary statement at the bottom of the paper.  Raise your hand and I’ll check your summary before you make a movie.”


Give students time to work

  • Walk around monitoring progress. Ask students about their work. Here is a student explaining how the organizer helps him.
  • As groups finish, give them an ipad to start their movie. Remind them that they will have a time limit to use the ipad so they should get started with the movie right away.
  • Here is one of my student's completed worksheets.
  • Several of my students drew student draws lines on their paper so they could write more easily.
  • I did prompt some students to use clear ideas on the worksheet and better wording.
  • Remind students to use the text to check for spelling.
  • I also suggested that kid rehearse in groups before presenting their movies.


If you have rules for iPad use, now would be a good time to review those. My students are very familiar with the class rules (iPads flat on the desk, use 2 hands to carry them, no fighting over iPads, etc.), so I don’t review them every time anymore.

Apply What You've Learned!

15 minutes

Groups share

  • “Let’s have groups come up and share their movies. After they show it, I want to see thumbs up or down – would you like to read that book?  If they used this strategy, the summaries should be good enough that we know what the book is about!”
  • Here are 2 of my kids' movies.  student movie 1 and student movie 2. 
  • Give the kids feedback about their summaries.  “I didn’t really understand the ‘but’ portion of your summary.  ‘But’ sounds like a problem, but you said ‘but he is happy’.  How could we change that?”
  • “Great job with the summaries today. There are so many good books in this series. Your summaries really help us to figure out which book to read!”


This year I am thinking about the progression of the Reading Literature 2.2 strand and realize this will take time in the transition years. To stay true to the 2nd grade standards, I try to help students analyze the development of the themes of a story by recounting the events and summarizing the supporting details.


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

You should create groups of mixed ability. The students with academic challenges will benefit from listening to others read and can give verbal ideas without the burden of spelling and writing. The students who have more academic ability can do more of the reading and writing, but will benefit from the creativity and movie making skills that other students might have.