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Using Literary Elements to Summarize Fiction Texts

Lesson Plan

Using Literary Elements to Summarize Fiction Texts


In this lesson, students identify and compare/contrast literary elements—and use the elements to summarize text. Students will:

  • identify literary elements of fiction text.
  • identify key events (sequence) in a fiction text.
  • use literary elements to summarize text.
  • cite evidence from the text to support key information.

Essential Questions

How do strategic readers create meaning from informational and literary text?
How does a reader’s purpose influence how text should be read?
How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?
How does what readers read influence how they should read it?
What is this text really about?
  • How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?
  • How do strategic readers create meaning from information and literary text?
  • What is the text really about?


  • Character: A person or an animal in a story.
  • Setting: The time and place in which a story unfolds.
  • Plot: The structure of a story. The sequence in which the author arranges the events in a story.
  • Conflict: A struggle or clash between characters.
  • Resolution: The part of a story in which the conflict is resolved.
  • Summarize: To capture all the most important parts of the original text (paragraph, story, poem), but express them in a much shorter space and in the reader’s own words.


45–90 minutes/1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

Prerequisite Skills haven't been entered into the lesson plan.


  • Cendrillon by Robert D. San Souci. Aladdin Paperbacks, 1998.
  • Cite Evidence Chart: one for each student (L-5-1-1_Cite Evidence Chart_student.xlsx)
  • Cite Evidence Chart, teacher copy: to be used for overhead transparency or projected on a screen for the class to view (L-5-1-1_Cite Evidence Chart_teacher.xlsx)
  • chart paper
  • a folklore book of your choice
  • multiple copies of any of the following books (enough to have the class read in small groups) Two students could share a copy of one book within a group.
    • The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo (easy). HarperCollins, 2000.
    • Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleischman (easy). Henry Holt and Company, 2007.
    • Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Other Favorite Tales as told by Charles Perrault (easy). Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2000
    • Cinderella retold by Amy Ehrlich (medium-easy). Dutton Children’s Books, 2004.
    • Sootface, An Ojibwa Cinderella Story by Robert D. San Souci (medium-easy). Dragonfly Books, 1997.
    • The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (medium). HarperCollins, 1992.
    • Yeh-Shen, A Cinderella Story from China retold by Ai-Ling Louie (medium). Puffin, 1996.
    • The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo (medium). HarperCollins, 1996.
    • The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (medium-challenging). HarperCollins, 2001.
    • Domilita: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition adapted by Jewell Reinhart Coburn (challenging). Shen’s Books, 2000.
  • Teachers may substitute other books to provide a range of reading and level of text complexity.

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Formative Assessment

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    • While students are working, walk around the room and monitor each group, providing assistance as needed. Students should be encouraged to defend their choices. Students should understand that they are being asked to explain their reasoning. Use formative assessment observation methods while walking among the groups. Take the opportunity to reteach and review when necessary. Informally assess if students are able to summarize the text effectively through dialogue with other students or by using anecdotal observation and notes.
    • As students take their turns sharing, note which students have difficulty or are reluctant to participate. Be certain to identify and assess students who appear to struggle. Provide prompts that will guide students to citing supporting evidence. Allow volunteers to suggest corrections.
    • Use the following checklist to evaluate students’ understanding:
      • Student demonstrates the ability to identify the literary elements of a story (setting, characters, conflict, resolution, theme).
      • Student includes the main events of the plot, including conflict and resolution.
      • Student identifies the theme of the story.
      • Student cites evidence from the text to support the summary of literary elements in a story.
      • Student summarizes a story based on literary elements.

Suggested Instructional Supports

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    Scaffolding, Active Engagement, Modeling, Explicit Instruction
    W: Review literary elements (setting, characters, conflict, resolution, theme) and have students practice summarizing a story by incorporating these elements. 
    H: Engage students by having them share their prior knowledge of familiar stories, including Cinderella. 
    E: Allow students to work in small groups to complete the Cite Evidence Chart and to formulate summaries from this information. 
    R: Provide an opportunity for students to work in a large group to compare their charts and summaries. 
    E: Use a formative assessment checklist to determine which students need additional instruction or practice summarizing. 
    T: Help students explore how to summarize text by working collaboratively in small groups. Provide texts at varying levels of complexity to allow students to achieve understanding at their conceptual level. 
    O: This lesson provides opportunities for large-group instruction and modeling, small-group exploration, and large-group discussion and summary. 

Instructional Procedures

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    Focus Question: How can literary elements be used to summarize text?


    Most students have been exposed to common folklore either through reading or videos. When introducing the lesson, allow students the opportunity to share the folklore they have read or know about. When Cinderella is mentioned, allow students to discuss what they know about the story.


    During the discussion, list key ideas on the board/interactive whiteboard (Cinderella, prince, godmother, stepmother, stepsisters; house, castle; can’t go to ball, receives dress and coach, dances with prince, loses slipper; found by prince, lives happily ever after)


    Part 1

    Review elements of fiction and list them on the board or project them on a screen for students’ reference:

    • characters (the people or animals in a story)
    • setting (where and when a story takes place)
    • plot (the action of a story, including conflict and resolution)
    • theme (broad idea that covers the whole story; a life lesson)

    Have students use the list of key ideas about the Cinderella story and identify the literary elements.

    Part 2

    Introduce the book Cendrillon by Robert D. San Souci. Say, “I am going to read this story to you. Your job is to identify the literary elements, which are the characters, setting, conflict, resolution, and theme.”

    After you read the story, display a copy of the blank Cite Evidence Chart (L-5-1-1_Cite Evidence Chart_student.xlsx) for the class. Ask volunteers to give you information to fill in each box on the chart for the story Cendrillon.

    Ask, “Where does the story Cendrillon take place?” (on an island in the Caribbean Sea)

    Say, “Let’s take a look at the exact words in the story. When we find evidence in the text to support key information, such as the setting, we are citing evidence.”

    Give the book Cendrillon to a student or pair of students. Ask students to find the exact words in the story that describe the setting (“green-green island in the so-blue Mer des Antilles, the Caribbean Sea”). Write the response on the class copy of the Cite Evidence Chart in the box “Cite evidence” under the setting for Cendrillon.


    Have students pass the book to another student or pair of students. Ask them to identify the conflict and cite evidence from the text that confirms the conflict. Be sure to clarify that when students list key events, they should choose the events that move the story along (only the most important events). Continue until all “Cite evidence” sections for Cendrillon are completed.


    Note: The Cite Evidence Chart_teacher provides answers for your convenience (L-5-1-1_Cite Evidence Chart_teacher.xlsx).


    Part 3

    Say, “One reason for analyzing literary elements is to help us summarize the text. Summarizing is one way readers check their comprehension of the text after reading.”


    Read aloud a folklore text of your choice. Then ask students to work in small groups to summarize the story verbally (oral planning). Give the following criteria for the summary:

    • a main-idea statement
    • identify characters and setting
    • explain main events of the story, including conflict and resolution
    • a concluding sentence that includes the theme

    Give students about 15 minutes to do oral planning in their small groups.


    After students have developed a summary, allow each group to share with the class. Provide constructive feedback on the summaries. When all the summaries are shared, model for students how to write the summary. (The above activity was intentionally oral so that students have some ideas formulated in their minds before they write.) Include the criteria listed above, being sure to demonstrate how the details and supporting evidence were pulled directly from the text.


    Read aloud the summary and have the class identify the parts outlined in the criteria to ensure that students understand the components required in a summary.


    • Have students who are ready to move beyond the standard find other versions of the Cinderella story or other folklore they have read, either on the Internet or in a book. Ask them to identify the literary elements and provide the evidence from the text that supports their information. After all textual evidence is gathered, have students write a summary that includes the key elements of the story—characters, setting, conflict, resolution, theme—and cites evidence from the story they read.
    • If additional practice is needed, work with students individually or in small groups to reteach or reinforce the concepts of literary elements, citing appropriate evidence to support the identification of those elements, and summarizing accurately.

Related Instructional Videos

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Final 05/10/2013
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