Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

SWBST: Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then

Patricia Turner, Michell Eike | Published: June 2nd, 2022 by K20 Center


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SWBST: Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then

One of the hardest things for students to understand is summarizing a story without giving a play-by-play account of all the details. The “Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then” strategy is a way to help students figure out the main points of a story. This strategy is often used with fiction, but it works just as well with nonfiction, primary sources, and across content areas.

SWBST: Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then


Use this strategy during or after reading. It helps students summarize by identifying key elements: Somebody (main character/thing), Wanted (goal/motivation), But (problem/conflict), So (solution), Then (outcome/resolution).


  1. Model the strategy with the whole class by reading a text or retelling a story. Have the class identify the "somebody" (or multiple main characters) and the remaining key elements from the story.

  2. Continue to model by reading all of the elements as a summary statement.

  3. Discuss with students the difference between a summary and a retelling of the story.

  4. Have students practice this on their own by reading a selected text and working in pairs or small groups to identify the SWBST.

  5. Have students use their SWBST to write a summary statement.

  6. Have pairs of students work with another pair of students to compare their summary statements.

  7. Continue to guide students until they can use the strategy independently.

Adapted from: NBSS. (n.d.). Somebody Wanted But So: Reading and Learning Strategy.