This lesson is designed to expand primary students' summarizing skills. In this lesson, students will summarize Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett. First, they will work in groups to complete assigned parts of a story map. Then, they will summarize the entire story as a class. Finally, they will create their own summary picture books to help them summarize the story. This is the final lesson in a set of summarizing lessons designed for primary grades. (For the first two lessons, see Summarizing: Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia and Summarizing: Nate the Great.
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.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
Begin by telling students a story with the title "The Worst Weather I Ever Experienced"—for example, a time you were caught in a hurricane, a snowstorm, or some such experience (the more death-defying, the better.) Make it as dramatic as possible. Make it a long story, with plenty of details.
Next, ask a student to tell you the story, with "just the important parts. Keep it short and sweet." Quite likely, the first child who tries this will provide too many details. Say, "Too many details!!! Someone else try. I want just a summary. Keep it short and sweet." Keep going until someone gives you a really nice, short summary.
Have students individually draw pictures of "The Worst Weather I Ever Experienced." Then have them tell the story to a partner. They can tell a long story, with plenty of details. Then, have the partner tell the story back to them, keeping it "short and sweet." The person who listens to the summary can decide whether it's short and sweet enough.
If your children are not yet comfortable working in pairs, you can do this as a whole-class activity. The important thing is to make sure everyone understands what a summary is.
Explain to students that they are going to read a funny story that has to do with unbelievable weather. Explain that they are going to be summarizing some weather conditions they have never ever seen before!
Tall tale—a funny story that includes exaggerated details and problems that are solved in funny ways
Students should know the terms: character, setting, problem, main event, and solution.
Tell students that now that they have completed several lessons about summarizing, they are going to show you that they really know how to summarize. First, you'll ask them to break into groups and fill in one part of a story map, without too much of your help, about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Second, you'll ask them to help you put the parts of the story map in order. Third, they will summarize Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to you as a class. Finally, you are going to give them "book" pages on which they will write and draw about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. They will use their books to summarize the story for their family members. Remind them that their summaries should always be shorter than the real book because a summary only includes the most important information about a story. It should be "short and sweet."
Review the vocabulary words on the story map. Explain that the reason they need to fill information in a story map is because it helps them keep track of the most important information they need to remember to be able to summarize a story.
Write the name of each part of a story map section (characters, setting, problem, main event [label 1st, 2nd and 3rd], and solution) on a piece of chart paper and draw a small picture beside each section to remind students which section they have. Have students help you brainstorm a quick image for each section of the story map. For example, you can draw a stick figure next to the character section.
Divide students into seven groups (one for each section of the story map) and give each group one section of the story map. Explain that you are going to read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs aloud to them and they are going to write or draw the information in their section of the story map. Tell them that you are going to stop reading at certain points, and groups should talk about what you have read to figure out if they need to add any important information to their section of the story map.
Before you begin reading, explain to students that Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is a story that really has two stories. The grandfather in this story tells his grandchildren a tall-tale—the story within the story. Point out that students should record all of the characters they hear, and tell them to listen closely for the beginning of the tall-tale that the grandfather tells. Start reading aloud Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to students. Stop reading right after Grandpa begins the tall-tale and make sure that students understand this is the beginning of Grandpa's story. Give groups a chance to fill-in information.
At this point, try not to do any modeling as you have done in the previous two lessons. Instead, if groups need help, ask questions such as, "Who is in the story so far?" and "What do I know about the setting?" Make sure that the groups who have the "Character" section are recording information. Continue reading aloud and be sure to monitor students' discussions as they determine what information to include. You may have to clue groups who have the main event sections that the first main event has happened, and so on. For students who are struggling writers, tell them that they can draw whatever they want that reminds them of their section. For example, students who have the second main event section could just draw a big pancake covering a school.
Suggested stopping points:
After reading the page about the Sanitation Department
After reading that the people had to abandon Chewandswallow
The end of the story
Sample Story Map answers:
Characters: Henry, Henry's sister, Grandpa, Mom
Problem: The good food stopped falling and it was replaced by bad food that was too big; the people had to leave Chewandswallow.
Setting: house; Chewandswallow
First Main Event: It rained food three times a day in Chewandswallow. The people ate whatever weather was served, and they didn't have to worry about going food shopping. People just carried their utensils with them.
Second Main Event: The weather took a turn for the worse. Bad food kept falling, and then food that was too big. People got sick trying to eat too much, and they had to close school. People decided to leave Chewandswallow.
Third Main Event: The townspeople made a boat out of stale bread and sailed to a new town. They had to get used to shopping for food at the supermarket.
Solution: The people of Chewandswallow survived in a new town, and Grandpa's story put the children to sleep!
Create a decorative story-map title page on a piece of chart paper that includes the title of the story, and the author's and illustrator's names. Collect the chart paper from each group and beginning with your title page, have children tell you where to tape all of the pieces of chart paper in the same order as the story map across the front board. Tell students that they are going to use their words or pictures to help them summarize Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Begin the summary by stating the name of the story and the name of the author and illustrator. Then, call on the "character" group to tell who the main characters are, the "setting" group to tell about the setting, and so on. Guide groups to summarize their part of the story in one or two sentences including only the most important points. Tell groups to listen to one another so that they can hear Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs being summarized.
Tell students that when they are summarizing a story to somebody, they usually do not have the book available to look through as they are talking. Explain that you want them to write and draw their own summary of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs so that they can summarize the story to you and to their family members at home.
Create a title page with the story's name and then create blank pages with these sentence frames on top:
The main characters are ________.
The setting of the story is: ________.
The problem in the story is _________.
The first funny event that happened is ______.
The second funny event that happened is ________.
The third funny event that happened is ________.
The story ended when _______.
Copy the book pages and distribute them to the class. Show students how to put their "books" in order and then staple them. (If appropriate, students should number the pages at the bottom.) Have students draw a fun picture on the title page and on each page to tell about the sentence frame. Advanced students may be able to fill in some words, but if they can't, tell students that a family member can write the information when students are summarizing Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs for them. Help children read the sentence frames and remind them that they should draw just one main picture that tells about the sentence frame. Their "book summary" should be shorter than the actual story and should only include the most important details.
To assess whether students have learned how to summarize an entire story, ask each student to use his or her book to give you a summary of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Check that they only tell you the most important parts of the story. To further assess students' understanding of how to summarize, you could have them work on a story map for a story that you had already read aloud in class and then ask them to use their story map to summarize the story for you. Be sure to assess the class's summary of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs before you assess their independent understanding of summarizing. Encourage students to bring home their summary books so that they can summarize this funny story to people in their family—what fun table talk!
Reflection and Planning
Determine which students understand how to summarize a story. For students who need more help, use this lesson plan using stories that students already know well. If additional support is needed, use the previous summarizing lesson plans, and use different books. Encourage students to make "summary books" of stories that you read aloud to them throughout the year and have them share their summaries with other classes to encourage other students to read the same wonderful books your students are reading in class.