Writing a Summary of a Short Story

Posted on 3/20/2017

It is very important to learn to write a summary; that is, to make explicit, in our own words, literally what happened in a story. But, without a strategy to do so, developing readers struggle to summarize a story. 

However, when they learn to use strategies to do so, their ability to make meaning and comprehend shoots way up. 

Essential Questions

How do we summarize a short story? 

Why is it important to summarize a short story?

One Effective Strategy for Summarizing a Short Story

There are the five elements of a story:

> Character

> Setting

> Conflict

> Resolution

> Plot

Writing a summary of a short story, we need to cover these elements and make explicit in our own words what happened relative to these five elements of a story. 

The following process is a great strategy to do this:

1. Write a few sentences – in your own words – stating the main message or gist of the story.

2. Write a few sentences about the setting of the story in the context of the story.

3. Write a few sentences about the main characters in the context of the story.

4. Write a few sentences about the conflict of the story in the context of the story.

5. Write several sentences to summarize the sequence of events using transitions effectively:
First, ... Then, ... Next, .... Finally, ...

6. Write a few sentences about how the conflict was resolved.

7. Write a few sentences restating the the message or gist of the story that began the summary, but this time doing it in a slightly different way with the aim of bringing closure to the summary. 

When we use a structured outline to summarize in this way, for each short story we read, this way of thinking soon becomes a habit of mind. 

This strategy aims to grow a learner’s ability to readily make explicit in their own words what happened in a short story, while intentionally covering the essential literary elements of a story. 

When we guide and coach students to develop this strategy through a gradual release of responsibility on a regular basis, they  they develop the ability to summarize a short story.   

Let’s read to make meaning! 

Be a lifelong long reader!! 

Learn more about Brian's work at learnonpoint.com