Lesson plan

Simple Summaries

Keep it simple! Teach your students to write a summary using the Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then frame for analyzing a story.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the A Simple Summary pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
Grade Subject View aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try the A Simple Summary pre-lesson.

Students will be able to write a simple summary after reading a fiction text.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(10 minutes)
  • Ask students to turn and talk to a partner about what they know about summaries. Have partnerships share out and record student answers on the board.
  • Tell students that today they are going to learn how to write a simple summary.
  • Review the definition of a summary: When you write a summary, you are retelling a story in your own words. A summary should be short, about three sentences, and should include the main ideas of the story, not details.
  • Explain to students that they will listen to a story and you will model how to write a simple summary. Read a short story aloud, like The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the Write a Simple Summary worksheet using a document camera.
  • Model how to write a summary using the worksheet and the book you read aloud as a mentor text (i.e., The Paper Bag Princess).
(10 minutes)
  • Show a short video, like Pixar’s "Lava" (or read a story aloud).
  • Display a blank copy of the Write a Simple Summary worksheet and ask the students who the main character was. Allow students to turn to an elbow partner to discuss, then call on a student volunteer to provide the answer. Write the answer in the "somebody" box on the worksheet (i.e., the volcano).
  • Repeat with each box on the worksheet (i.e., What did the volcano want? What was the problem?).
  • Have students turn to their elbow partner and verbally come up with a summary using the completed worksheet as a guide. Keep the completed worksheet displayed as students discuss.
  • Call on three volunteers to provide examples of a summary. Point out that even if the exact wording of the summaries are different, they all expressed the same key information.
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out the Hot Cross Buns: Read to Remember worksheet and instruct students to complete it independently.
  • Circulate and offer support as needed.


  • Provide additional examples during guided practice.
  • Provide partially complete graphic organizers (i.e., somebody and so are filled in) and allow students to complete the missing parts.

Enrichment: Have students apply the skills learned to write a summary about a book of their choice.

(10 minutes)
  • Write the names of several familiar stories on the board (i.e., "The Three Little Pigs," "Goldilocks and the Three Bears").
  • Hand out a half sheet of the Simple Summary Reading Log worksheet and instruct students to choose a story that they are familiar with from the list on the board.
  • Have students complete the graphic organizer and write a summary about the story they chose. Then, collect and check for understanding.
(5 minutes)
  • Hold up index cards with a word (e.g., "somebody") and ask students to identify the question that is associated with the word (e.g., "Who is the main character?").

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