Summarizing: Nate the Great


This lesson is designed to establish primary students' skills in summarizing a story. The lesson uses the book, Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. In this lesson, students summarize a story using a story map and picture clues. This is the second lesson in a set of summarizing lessons designed for primary grades. (See the first lesson — Summarizing: Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia.)

This lesson, which focuses on summarizing, assumes that students are already familiar with basic story elements including character, plot, and setting. Summarizing also requires students to be familiar with sequencing events and determining importance. If students are unfamiliar with these concepts, you will need to take some time introducing them.


  • Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

  • Chart paper

  • A story map

  • Drawing paper


  1. Hook/Engagement

    To engage students, tell them that Nate the Great is a detective in the story they're about to read. Ask students what they think a detective does and write their answers on the blackboard. Guide them to understand that detectives use clues to help find missing things or people. Tell them that in this story, Nate the Great is going to help his friend find something that is very important to her that she lost. Ask students to draw a picture of something that is very important to them that they would never want to lose.

    Then, have students "summarize" their picture—talk about the main details of their picture and explain briefly why they would never want to lose it. Tell students that they should only include the most important details in their verbal summary. For example, "I have had my brown stuffed teddy bear since I was born. It is my favorite toy, and I would never want to lose it." Note that students don't have to tell every story about their teddy bear or describe it in detail. They just have to tell what their important thing is and why they would not want to lose it. You may want to do a drawing and give the first summary as an example to students.

  2. Vocabulary

    Students should be familiar with the story element terms: character, setting, problem, main event, and solution.

  3. Measurable Objectives

    Tell students that they will learn more about how to summarize a story. First, they will help you complete a story map about Nate the Great. Information in a story map will help them remember the most important parts of a story. Then you are going to put them into groups and give each group some pictures from the story. The groups are going to have to use the pictures to help them summarize the part of the story that the pictures show. Then, each group is going to put its pictures in the right sequence and give a verbal summary so that the groups together summarize the whole story. Students' ability to complete this task successfully will help you understand how much they have learned.

  4. Focused Instruction

    Remind students that summarizing means to tell the most important parts. In the Engagement activity, they summarized the most important details about an important thing they would never want to lose. Now, you'd like them to summarize the important parts of Nate the Great. Tell them that you are going to read Nate the Great aloud to them and stop at certain points, asking for new information to fill in the story map. Remind them that they can't include every piece of information; they can only include the most important information so that they can summarize the story. Tell them to listen closely and look at the pictures on each page so that they can use the pictures to help them summarize parts of the story. Draw a story map, such as the one below on the blackboard or on a piece of chart paper—but don't fill it in yet. Start by reading the print on the cover of the Storybook, and then begin reading the story. Stop before Nate the Great arrives at Annie's. Think aloud what information you are recording in the story map:

    "The name of this story is Nate the Great. The author's name is on the cover—Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. The illustrator is Marc Simont. [Point to where you find this information.] I know Nate the Great is a main character in the story. So, I will write his name. This is a story, a piece of fiction. Annie is also a main character in the story, so I will write her name, too. One main event is that Nate the Great is going to Annie's house to find her lost picture."

    Point out that you didn't record funny or interesting details like Nate's letter to his mom or what Annie looks like. If you were going to summarize this story to a friend, you wouldn't have to tell them that information—you will include only the most important information. Based on what they've heard you read so far, ask students what they think the problem in this story is. Begin reading to students when Nate arrives at Annie's house and continue to read until the next stopping point. Suggested stopping points are listed below.

    When you stop reading, ask students to help you fill in the story map, having students provide the information themselves or answering your pointed questions. When they can verbally identify the information to be included in the story map, they are closer to understanding the main points of the story and therefore will be able to begin to summarize. As you read, be sure to point to the pictures that best illustrate the main points of the story that you are including in the story map. Suggested stopping points:

    1. After Nate realizes that Fang did not bury the picture

    2. After Nate and Annie leave Rosamond's house

    3. After Harry notices the monster Harry painted is orange

    4. The end of the story

  5. Guided Practice

    Review the completed story map with the class and take a picture walk through Nate the Great, talking aloud the main parts of the story and pointing to the pictures that best illustrate the main points. You do not need to reread the story to them. Instead, use the pictures to help you summarize it. Divide students into groups of three. Tell them that you are going to give them pictures from Nate the Great, and they are going to use the pictures to help them summarize that part of the story for you. Reemphasize that they do not need to talk about every part of that picture. Although most students cannot read the text of this story, this activity will help them use text clues or the pictures to give a verbal summary of part of the story. This activity moves students one step closer to summarizing than the activity from the first lesson because they are using actual book clues; they are being required to figure out what part of the story they need to summarize, and they are not drawing, but giving a verbal summary.

    Photocopy pages from the story that adequately represent the main parts of the story and give them to groups. For example, you might photocopy the first three pages of Nate the Great to give to one group. A sample summary for those pages could be: Nate the Great is a detective who is going to help his friend Annie find a lost picture. Note that the summary does not include a description of every image on every page. Monitor each group's progress and guide them to include only the most important information in their summary. Have groups decide whether they will have one spokesperson share their verbal summary with the class or whether each member will say part of their summary. When groups are ready, ask them to take turns and show their pictures and give their summary.

  6. Independent Practice

    Write on index cards as many of the terms (characters, setting, problem, main event, and the solution) as there are groups and place the cards on a table. Ask groups to take the card that matches their pictures and summary. Then, challenge groups to put themselves in sequence of the story map. Tell them that if their groups are in the correct sequence, then each group will be able to show its pictures and tell its summary, and once the last group finishes, they should have successfully summarized Nate the Great.

  7. Assessment

    To assess whether students have learned how to summarize a part of a story, ask each group to meet with you and explain how they came up with their verbal summary and why they chose the index card they did. To test a student's individual understanding of summarizing, meet with each student and show him or her several photocopied pages from the story. Be sure the pages are not the same as the pages he or she received in the group. Ask the student to use the picture clues to give you a verbal summary of that part of the story.

Reflection and Planning

Determine which students understand how to summarize a part of a story using picture clues. For students who need more help, show them pictures from a story that they already know and ask them to summarize the part of the story the pictures illustrate. Once students are more comfortable with summarizing using picture clues, ask them to look carefully at the pictures from the next story that you read aloud together. Once you have finished the book, turn back through the pages and have them summarize that story to you using picture clues. As students begin to learn to write, have them summarize stories in writing. If students are still struggling with the concept of summarizing, review the skills of finding the main idea and sequencing, before going on to other summarizing lessons.

Pearson Education

Use a lesson that is designed to establish primary students' skills in summarizing a story using the book, Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat.

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