Summarising the Plays


Summarising is important for several reasons. Firstly, by summarising a reader discerns the most critical aspects of a text and disregards less important detail. If they can do this, they can show that they understand the text at a more fundamental level to simple plot telling. Furthermore, teaching students to summarise improves their reading memory. 

Shakespeare contains comic strip versions of six of Shakespeare’s plays. In this lesson, the children become familiar with at least one of these by creating a 50-word summary.


  • Copies of Shakespeare, at least one per pair.


Read p15-20 aloud while the children follow with their copies of the book. Ask:

  • What do we learn about Shakespeare’s life in this section of the book?
  • Has he written any plays yet?

Introduce the terms, histories, comedies and tragedies. Explain that Shakespeare’s plays fall into these three types. Histories are stories about England’s past. Tragedies told unhappy tales which usually ended in deaths. Comedies had happy endings. Explain that the class will be reading shortened versions of seven of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. 

In this first session, the class will be reading one play together and working on a summary in pairs. Distribute copies of Shakespeare and invite the children to turn to pages 31-32. Read the spread aloud as the children follow. Ask:

  • Is Henry V a comedy, history or tragedy?
  • What kind of character is Henry V? (The children should be able to refer to the text, and the adjectives used to describe him such as ruthless and merciless.)
  • What are the main events of the play? 

Organise the class into groups of three. Explain that they will be writing a summary of the play in no more than 50 words. Give at least 20 minutes for the summaries to be discussed and written. Encourage the children to begin the task without worrying too much about the word count. Write a first draft, then count the words. If you have more than 50, reduce down by thinking about what is not essential. 

Teacher’s Note: If the children you are working with need support with summarising, model the process with Henry V.

Once the summaries are complete, invite the groups to share with the class. Ask:

  • Did any groups include details that you left out? 
  • What was the most important? 

Add a final challenge:

  • What is the smallest number of words you can use?

An example is:

King wins the battle.  

Teacher’s Note: If you are dividing the learning into two sessions, this is a good stopping point.

Session 2 

Remind the class of the learning that has already taken place around summarising. Organise the class into six groups and allocate each group with one of the following plays: 

Group Play
1 Romeo and Juliet (p21-22)
2 A Midsummer Night’s Dream (p23-24)
3 Hamlet (p33-34)
4 Macbeth (p37-38)
5 Twelfth Night (p39-40)
6 The Tempest (p41-42)

The group should begin by reading the double-page spread containing their play. They can read independently or in pairs, or each child could read a section. The group must first decide whether their play is a comedy, tragedy or history. They should then write a 50 word summary of the play. Allow plenty of time for the group to work together to draft and redraft their summaries. If you have access to computers, they could use word processing software to write. 

Once complete, give time for the groups to share their summaries with the class.

Final reflection


  • Did hearing any of the summaries make you want to read the fuller version?

Give pairs time to read the play summaries in the book.


As this is the first week back. We will be taking 4 of plays in turn and writing a summary of them. Monday R+J Tuesdays MSND an the Sonnets Wednesday Macbeth Thursday 12th Night Friday will be Cracking