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"Somebody Wanted But So Then" (SWBST) is a strategy that supports and teaches many literary elements required by many curricula including the new learning standards. The rigor of these standards necessitates a different type of teaching/learning than has been practiced in the past.


This strategy is intended to inspire students' thinking and engage them in dialogue with the text and with each other.  By incorporating many of the literary elements often highlighted in isolation (i.e., setting, problem, resolution) SWBST helps students easily formulate a summary.


Appropriate for all levels, SWBST highlights the literary elements of character, setting, theme/plot, conflict/problem, events, resolution/conclusion, and their relationships. Simultaneously, the strategy illustrates the connections between an outline, a summary, and a retelling, showing how these three can be combined to form a five-paragraph essay.


The one-page "SWBST Overview" Graphic Organizer is labeled above and to the left of the chart, showing how all of these elements are incorporated.    Changes specific to upper levels may include the following vocabulary upgrades:


“Somebody Wanted But So Then” is a strategy designed to help students analyze the stories they read or create complete stories of their own. While it seems to be a simple enough strategy to aid creativity with no further input, spending time analyzing stories read aloud or in guided reading groups, will further your students' understanding of the five elements and enrich their overall comprehension of how these elements interact. Then, when the structure is applied to the creative process, students’ stories become rich with details and descriptive language.


Please note this is a process which, when practiced consistently, can become automatic. The elements (SWBST) and thinking about the relationship of these elements in stories become a structure for deductive reasoning students can use across the curriculum. The consistent practice does not always have to be written. 



This strategy provides direction for clear descriptions which enables the students to visualize what they are learning and about which they are writing.    Recent brain research supports the use of visualizing and illustrating to assist in retrieval of information and to aid comprehension. 


Teachers will find this strategy helpful when teaching students how to summarize.  It also helps students to make connections which solidify their comprehension. 


Assessment and Differentiation

Assessment with using SWBST is almost a dream come true!  The multiple steps of the strategy allow for at-a-glance assessment at every stage (outline, summary—paragraph, retelling—5 paragraph essay). 

This constant formative assessment provides easy opportunities for intervention and/or differentiation.   Struggling students and/or non-readers may use the SWBST chart format by  illustrating their responses to display comprehension. 


Teachers may choose to use either the Summary Paragraph or the Essay Retelling for a final product, providing them with a summative assessment.  


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