Somebody Wanted But So (SWBS) Strategy

This is actually the second post in a two part post that I just finished writing.  So why am I posting part 2 first?  Well, when I began writing a post on a fantastic reading comprehension activity that I first heard about at the Language Arts conference, Reading for the Love of It, I began to outline the two part activity.  The first part of the activity used a pointed reading strategy, while the second part took students through a SWBS chart, but then I started to think, “What if the reader hasn’t used a SWBS chart before?” So I began to explain SWBS, but then decided to just create a separate post to explain it.

Somebody Wanted But So  (SWBS) was originally introduced by MacOn, Bewell, and Vogt in their 1991 booklet Responses to Literature in order to help students understand the elements of a story.  Now, let’s consider a story that we’re familiar with:   Snow White.  The evil queen wants to be the fairest in all the land, but the magic mirror proclaims Snow White, her step-daughter, as the fairest of all.  The Queen flies into a rage and orders a huntsman to take Snow White into the woods to kill her, but the huntsman has a change of heart and allows Snow White to run away into the woods.

Let’s place this story snippet into a SWBS chart.  How do we do this?

  • choose a character mentioned
  • what does the character want/need or what is the character’s goal?
  • what is the problem that the character faces?
  • what is the solution to the problem or does the character reach the goal?

Want to see something cool?

Somebody = Character

Wanted = Plot

But = Conflict

So = Resolution

The SWBS chart helps to identify the elements of a story!  Students can easily come to this conclusion with some guided questioning on the part of the teacher e.g. what do we call a problem in a story?

Next, ask students to generalize each of the statements so that it is not so specific to the story; for example:

This generalized statement now becomes, wait for it, the THEME!

I love SWBS and this works for all types of texts…poems, novel chapters, short stories, non-fiction…you can even use it to record historical and scientific events and discoveries!

Here’s a handout to use with your class!  Have students fill in the elements of a story (character, plot, conflict, resolution, and theme) into each set of brackets, respectively.  Just click on the image below!

Mathematics Learning Logs

We know as teachers that students are successful when they can synthesize what they have learned and what they are having problems with based on a certain criteria. Giving students the opportunity to record what “I now know” and what “I need to learn” in relation to a lesson goal will promote them to become reflective thinkers and learners. I find that using learning logs at the end of a lesson is a fantastic way for students to critically analyze their own personal learning. I create little booklets for my students for each strand of mathematics.

Click on this link Math Learning Logs to view the whole file.


Using Picture Books with Middle School Students: “How to Heal a Broken Wing” by Bob Graham

“In troubled times, when many of us are losing contact with the natural world, I wanted to show that there is  still hope in a coming generation of children who have curiosity and empathy with the world around them, and that care and attention can sometimes fix broken wings” (Bob Graham)

The premise of this picture book appears simple: a young boy is the only person among a busy crowd who cares that a bird has fallen with a broken wing.  Along with his parents, he takes the bird home to nurse it back to health and eventually returns it to its home.   Even though it may seem straight forward, “How to Heal a Broken Wing” is actually a very powerful story that can be used with children of all age levels (my 3 year old son loves this book!), but it is excellent to use with middle school/intermediate students.

I particularly love this picture book for a variety of reasons:

  • the page layout changes often (from full pages illustrations to a comic layout with 8 illustrations per page) so this adds visual interest and at times it feels like more of a graphic novel than a picture book
  • look carefully (and critically) at the illustrations…the box the bird is placed in carefully is lined with a newspaper with a giant tank on the front page and the family gently tends to the injured bird while the TV shows fighter jets flying over a city…very powerful images right there
  • the passage of time is shown through a calendar and the phases of the moon…it takes time to heal the broken bird and it does not happen quickly or overnight
  • it takes several attempts before the bird regains strength and shows healing
  • the bird is returned to his “home” in order to be set free…the family does not impede on the bird’s freedom
  • there really isn’t a lot of text, but the message is so clear, poignant and powerful that it actually makes it more meaningful because it is such a simple message
  • I love how the loose feather is a constant image throughout the book

I’ve included a one page question sheet the can be used with older students, but I plan to create more worksheets to go along with this excellent resource.  Just click on the image below!

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon Associate link

Your Essential Teacher Binder!

Hello readers!

We’ve added a new page that includes links to all the posts related to creating an effective and well-organized teacher binder!

We hope you find the links useful!  We’ll be adding in more resources throughout the summer, so that you’ll be starting off in September on the right foot!

Science Labs: An Intro to Safety

science wordle

Don’t you just love Wordle?  In case you haven’t used Wordle before it’s an applet that creates cool word clouds like the one above.  You type in a bunch of words (the more times a word appears, the larger the font size) and a word cloud is formed.  You can customize word directions, colour, font, and a few other things.  Don’t know how you’d like your cloud to look?  Just press “randomize” and it gives you a different cloud each time!

My first science class each year is just about getting the kids to talk about science…what does science mean to them?  It’s important to help students understand the science is dynamic.  It is ever-changing.  And we definitely do not have all the answers to our questions.

I’ve created a set of lab safety rules in student-friendly language.  Before actually getting into scientific inquiry (which I will post about soon) and designing experiments, students need to understand the importance of lab safety.

Click on the Science Wordle above for the lab safety rules and student contract!

I’ll be making these rules into posters soon, so if you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below!

Here’s a link to an activity to help students identify unsafe lab practices:

Teaching Students Healthy Living Skills: A Case Study Approach!

The following activity is a great culminating task once you have taught your students about healthy meal options, physical activity components, and why it is important to make healthy lifestyle choices.  Instead of simply asking students to explain the previous concepts, students take on the role of a nutritionist and personal trainer who has to provide recommendations to one of two fictional teenagers.  Students are to analyze their subject’s lifestyle choices and provide the following;

  • an analysis of his/her lifestyle choices and the importance of a healthy lifestyle
  • a sample three day meal plan (3 meals plus 2 snacks per day)
  • a sample three day exercise plan (cardio, strength training, and stretching)
  • some tips and strategies to help their subject incorporate these healthy choices on a regular basis

Students are to create a pamphlet/brochure to provide the information in a creative manner.  I have used this with my grade 8 students in the past and the results are amazing! They do an excellent job providing healthy living advice and produce some very professional looking pamphlets!

I’ve included the student handouts and rubric!  Click the image above!