Summarizing Using the Somebody Wanted But So Then Strategy

One of my favorite strategies is the SWBST strategy, which is short for Somebody Wanted But So Then. The Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then strategy can be used during or after reading as a framework when summarizing the action of a story by identifying key elements. The strategy helps students make generalizations, identify main ideas, etc. It is a good summarizing strategy as your “go to” because it applies to many texts and kids find it easy to remember once they have had a lot of exposure to it. It is used mostly with narrative texts but can also be used with a historical event. With SWBST students can summarize the motivation, conflict, or event of a character or group of people. It is one of my favorite summary strategies. It is a great strategy! If you want to read more about teaching summarizing you can read my blog post.

Sometimes some students find summarizing hard. They often do a retell of what they read instead of summarizing. Summarizing is telling the main points versus giving a detail of all accounts that happened. The Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then strategy helps students cut through the clutter and get to the main points of a story and what text to include in their written summary.

Teaching this strategy is fun. First, introduce the student to the strategy by creating and discussing parts of the SWBST anchor chart. Get your copy here for free!

Summarizing Anchor Chart SWBST

Next, over a few days, read picture books to the class and as a class create a large matrix of the SWBST strategy and start recording your answers on post it notes under the correct header. When reading together, students will pick out who the somebody is, what that person or character wanted, but, what happened that prevented it from happening, and so, how they overcame and then, how it all ended. 


After plenty of modeling and we do sessions, then students can use the various graphic organizers to practice the strategy on their own.

When students get familiar and use this strategy often, they will be using their critical thinking skills and weighing who the important characters are, their motives and obstacles. It will really start getting them to start thinking about literature in ways more than just giving their opinion. SWBST really helps improve their critical thinking skills.

Click to download your free SWBST summarizing strategy kit!