How to Write Book Summaries with Students

How to Write Book Summaries with Students

Have you ever spent 20 minutes in your classroom reading a book just to have your students immediately forget what the book was about?

You probably already know how frustrating that feeling is.

Teaching students how to write book summaries can feel daunting. Are you ready to change that?

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What to Include in a Book Summary?

There are two main ways for students to summarize a book in elementary school.

The first way is a retell. This is exactly as it sounds.. students will retell the plot from the story using words such as first, then, next, last or somebody, wanted, but, so, then.

The other type of summary is to discuss the story elements. This will include character, setting, problem and solution.

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Summary of a Book Example:

The length and depth of a summary will depend on what grade the student is in.

  • Kindergartners can finish a sentence stem summarizing the main idea of a text using one word or phrase.
  • First Graders should be able to write 4 sentences about a story using sentence stems.
  • Second graders can write 4 sentences without sentence stems.
  • Third graders can write 6+ sentences about the story.

Remember, you know your students best and what scaffolding they need to best complete a task.

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Engaging Book Summary Ideas

Let’s face it.. the idea of book summaries can be really boring for students.

Spruce it up by selecting FUN and seasonal texts.

My favorite way to summarize picture books is by using holiday texts. Students can retell important plot events or can summarize story elements. My favorite units are:

The best way to summarize chapter books is using this fun flip book where students practice using SWBAT to summarize. Read more exclusive tips for chapter books here.

Closing Thoughts

Do your students practice summarizing stories?

Here are some of my favorite HOLIDAY book summary activities:

What books are your favorite for summaries? Drop them in the comments below!

Emily - The Mountain Teacher

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