Teaching summarizing? Use story element examples! When you model this process, your students will experience success.
Ms. Sneed Thinks About Teaching Summarizing
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, sat at her desk. “Time to ramp it up my literature curriculum,” she said outloud. “On to summarizing.”
As her mentor taught her, Ms. Sneed looked at the standards one grade level below, on level, and one level above. That way, she could see what her students should already know, what she needed to teach them, and where they were going.
Getting to Know the Standards
Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
“Hmm, third graders focus on retelling the story,” she thought. “They simply explain the beginning, middle, and end in their own words.”
“Fourth graders summarize,” Ms. Sneed told herself. “They retell only key details, or elements, of the story: character(s), setting and plot.” She remembered a teacher friend talking about somebody wanted but then so. Those words helped kids with literary elements.
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
Ms. Sneed pondered this. Fifth graders also summarize. She noted that they must discuss how the character responds to challenges. “By fifth grade, students should be able to identify the main character, his or her goal or motivation, the obstacle(s) that get in the way, steps he or she takes to achieve the goal and/or overcome the obstacle, and the outcome or resolution,” she thought.
Searching for Resources
As she often did, Ms. Sneed used her computer to explore. First, she clicked around on Pinterest. Then she headed over to TPT.
Wow, there was a lot to choose from. Then one unit on summarizing and finding a theme caught her eye. It focused on story elements and featured a story arc. For beginners, kids used a simple chant: somebody wanted but then so. Then they moved to more conventional element names. Yes. This would take her students far beyond retelling. As a matter of fact, they’d reach into the fifth grade standard.
After downloading the unit, Ms. Sneed considered how she’d us it. First, she planned to teach summarizing with story elements. After that, they could consider how a character’s actions affected the outcome and uncover a theme.
The following Monday, Ms. Sneed stood in front of her class. “Okay, everybody, today we’ll learn about summarizing.”
“We learned that last year,” said a girl with classes.
“Correction,” laughed Ms. Sneed. “Today we’ll learn more about summarizing.”
Reading a Fable
She projected a slideshow on the screen. “First, we’ll read a short fable.”
Ms. Sneed read “The Dog and His Shadow” aloud.
Exploring a Story Elements Example
When they finished reading, a table appeared on the screen. As the class discussed, they discovered story elements and events.
- Character – dog
- Setting – bridge
- Goal – to take the bone home
- Obstacle – saw bigger bone in his reflection
- Steps – opened his mouth to grab the other bone and dropped the bone
- Outcome – the dog had no bone
Next, Ms. Sneed showed her class how to take the information and write a brief summary:
A dog was crossing a bridge. He wanted to carry his bone home. He saw a bigger bone in his reflection. He opened his mouth to grab the other bone and dropped his bone. The dog had no bone.
Polishing the Paragraph
“Hmm” said Ms. Sneed. “How many of you think that sounded choppy?”
Many hands shot up.
“Okay, let’s fix it up a bit.”
Using the presentation, Ms. Sneed modeled how to combine sentences, use transitional phrases, and add details to clarify and help the audience understand. When they were done, the summary sounded much better.
A dog was carrying a bone home across a bridge. When he looked into the water, he saw a bigger bone in his reflection. Then he opened his mouth to grab the other bone and dropped his bone in the river. He tried swimming after it, but the bone was lost, and he had none.
Practicing with Fables
After Ms. Sneed finished teaching summarizing, another fable, “The Fox and the Grapes,” appeared on the screen.
“Okay, everyone, it’s time to find story elements and summarize on your own.”
As she circulated, the teacher provided help where needed. When everyone finished, they compared their responses with those on the slideshow.
Over the course of the year, Ms. Sneed assigned four more fables. With each story, her students got better – and quicker – at summarizing.
Scaffolding Story Elements Examples
Each year, as Ms. Sneed pulled out her summarizing unit, she considered which form of story element examples to use. If her students weren’t ready to use the actual terms, she began with somebody wanted but then so. Then she moved to longer descriptions, and finally, to more specific terms.
In the end, regardless of the terminology, her kids were pulling out the most important parts of a story and writing it as a concise summary.
Enjoy Teaching Summarizing
For teaching summarizing, Ms. Sneed had to consider her desired outcome. Then she analyzed her students’ readiness, as well as how she would take them from point A to point B. Actually, this rang true for every concept in her ELA block. When a lesson allowed her to fully connect with her students, it was magical.