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!

2 thoughts on “Somebody Wanted But So (SWBS) Strategy

  1. ELIA November 29, 2018 at 4:24 am


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