EL Support Lesson

A Simple Summary

Use this lesson to help your ELs learn how to create a simple summary, paying attention to the sequence in a story. This lesson can stand alone or be used as a pre-lesson for the *Simple Summaries* lesson.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theSimple SummariesLesson plan.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theSimple SummariesLesson plan.

Students will be able to write a simple summary after reading a fiction text.


Students will be able to summarize a fiction text with transition words using a paragraph frame.

(2 minutes)
Time Order TransitionsWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceTeach Background Knowledge TemplateVocabulary Cards: A Simple SummaryGlossary: A Simple SummarySummary with Time Order Words
  • Facilitate a Think-Pair-Share by asking students to silently think about the important information to include when they retell a story. Have them turn and talk to a partner to share their answers. Then, call on students to share out their ideas with the class. Confirm and rephrase student answers as needed.
  • Explain that a good SummaryIncludes only the most important information, and it excludes the little details. A good summary of a fiction text would include: the main character, problem, solution. It would not include little details, nor would it give away the ending.
  • Share that today's lesson will focus on creating short and sweet summaries with Transition words, which keep the ideas connected in the correct order.
(10 minutes)
  • Give each student a set of Vocabulary Cards and go over the definitions of each word. Instruct them to draw an image to help them remember the definition of each key term.
  • Instruct students to take out their whiteboards and whiteboard markers. Have them write a sentence for the word Want, and then share it with a partner. Call on nonvolunteers to share their sentences. Record one or two on the board or chart paper for student reference.
  • Repeat the process with the remainder of the vocabulary words.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute and display the worksheet Time Order Transitions. Explain the definition and purpose of transition words, and point out the colored visual. Share that it is an upside down traffic light, but that the colors correspond to the format of a story (beginning, middle, and end).
  • Tell students that a good summary tells the most important information in the way that it happens in the story. If the summary does not reflect the sequential order, it is confusing to others.
  • Model finding a transition word in the first sentence. Engage learners in identifying the transition words in the remainder of the sentences in Part 1. Call on nonvolunteers to point out the sentence, and explain which section (beginning, middle, or end) of a story it shows.
  • Explain that the sentences in Part 2 of the worksheet are a story in sequential order, and they need transition words to make them connect smoothly. Choose the best transition word or phrase for the first one, and have partners complete the remainder of the sentences together. Check the answers as a class, and have students read aloud the new sentence with the transition word or phrase.
  • Ask learners to turn to a partner to explain why transition words are important in a story or a retelling of a story.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that we use transition words when we explain anything that has a sequence of events. It could be directions, a retelling of an important event, or a summary of a story.
  • Display and distribute the worksheet Summary with Time Order Words. Have a student review the information at the top of the worksheet about transition words.
  • Ask students to read the first passage to themselves, and circle any unknown words that they wish to discuss. Define and provide images and examples for unfamiliar words, as needed.
  • Read aloud the first passage and think aloud about the main character(s), what they want, the problem, and how it is solved. Underline and label them in the text. Point out that the transition words are there to help the summary move forward. Complete the paragraph frame.
  • Put students into partnerships and have them read the second passage together. Give them time to write a summary using the paragraph frame. Have groups share out their summary, and emphasize that groups will have different wording, but that the main information should be the same.


  • Allow access to reference materials in home language (L1).
  • Have learners repeat instructions and key vocabulary to the teacher.
  • Provide sentence stems for class discussion in the Sentence Level section. For example:
    • Transition words show ____.
    • It is important to have transition words because ____.
  • Allow Beginning ELs to complete the Assessment with a partner.


  • Allow learners to utilize glossaries and dictionaries for unfamiliar words.
  • Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions. Have them add on, rephrase, and ask clarifying questions in group discussions.
  • Have learners repeat instructions and key vocabulary, summarizing important information for the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Instruct students to read the third passage on the Summary with Time Order Words worksheet and complete the paragraph frame independently.
(3 minutes)
  • Have students share their paragraph frames from the Assessment section with a partner. Then, scramble partnerships and have them share their paragraph frames again. Allow learners to make any edits they feel are necessary. Discuss answers, and if anyone made any edits and why.
  • Review that a summary is a short statement that tells about something. In this lesson, transition words were used to get students working toward writing short summaries. Focusing on the sequence of a text will help to create simple summaries in upcoming lessons.

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