Somebody Wanted But So .... What Works!

   Summarizing is one of the hardest strategies to teach and for students to learn.  Many students will retell the text ... almost word for word when asked to give a summary.  In order for students to learn the difference between a retelling and a summary, teachers must model, model, model summarizing often. According to Dr. Jan Richardson, when we ask our students to summarize they ...
  • write too much or not enough
  • do not capture the most important ideas
  • copy word for word from the text
  • do not understand the vocabulary "brief"
  • do not know the difference between a retelling and a summary
A summary is a higher level response than a retelling ... in a retell, students retell as much as they can recall from the text but in a summary they have to synthesize the text and condense it so that they only highlight the key points using key words and phrases from the text. The Somebody-Wanted-But-So (SWBS) format is a great scaffold for guiding students to give a summary NOT a retell. In K-2 classrooms we can help our young readers learn how to summarize by using the SBWS strategy. 

Since I am not "in the classroom" anymore ... I decided to check out what other teachers are doing to teach summarizing ...particularly with using the Somebody-Wanted-But-So strategy.

The key to success for young readers to grasp summarizing and the SWBS strategy is modeling how to use this strategy. Do this during whole group read aloud lessons and modeled, shared or interactive writing events. 

Here is an example of how The First Grade Buddies built a chart over several days during read aloud time.

Here is another example of charting during read aloud time to teach the SBWS strategy from Life in First Grade.

Here is a chart that is ready made and can be used over and over from The Pinspired Teacher.

Here is a chart ready for whole group modeling... the teacher has it all planned out on the little sheet on top of the book and ready to fill it in with the students.  She switched the position of the So and Then ... (this is ok if it fits with a particular book) and she added the word Summary at the bottom so that the students could learn the next layer ... writing their thoughts into complete sentences.  I would take of the part that says "retell".

This pic was grabbed from Pinterest and there was not a link to the original creator. 

Another key to success is making the strategy your own... it is ok to change it up to meet the needs of your students. Some teachers have added the T... "Then" to the framework. I have also seen where the B stood for because ... Somebody-Wanted-Because-So. 
This pic was grabbed from Fabulous Fourth Grade

This pic was grabbed from The Brown Bag Teacher

The chart below is a great anchor chart however, I would take off the right hand corner that says to "retell" this is where some confusions may occur when teaching summarizing.  Students need to know the difference between the two. 

This pic was grabbed from Pinterest and there was not a link to the original creator. 

Once we have taken the time to model how to use the strategy during our whole class lessons, we can support our readers by having them apply what they have learned with our support during guided reading and then on their own during work station/center time or independent reading time. Model-Support-Independent = gradual release of responsibility!!! 

Here is a foldable activity from A Teacher's Treasure that students can use during centers ... this could be the model ... they can take the precut paper and label it themselves

I like to use a variety of sheets during guided reading and literacy stations. Click on the picture below to find differentiated SWBS foldables and organizers. This resource includes other organizers too! 

 Somebody Wanted But So

Happy Reading,


  1. I love SWBST! It really helps the students to focus their thinking! Thank you for this post - the pictures are also very helpful!
    Peggy @ Primary Flourish

    1. Thanks! I agree ... it is a great teaching tool. I have been working on a version for non-fiction too.
      Happy Reading

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