Retelling is an important part of good reading comprehension. Students should be able to reconstruct a story in the proper sequence, while identifying story elements like characters, settings, problems and solutions. When you begin to teach retelling, it is helpful to have students practice retelling stories that they have been read aloud, before they begin working on books that they read themselves.
Here are a few activities to use with the read aloud books for retelling.
Flap Books - These graphic organizers are easy to make and use and can be adapted for any story elements that you are working on. I use these a lot for beginning, middle end and problem and solution organizers. If you make them together the first few times, first and second graders can easily make them. To make one, fold a piece of manila paper in half long side to long side (hot dog style) and then fold it into as many sections as you need for the elements you are focusing on: three for beginning, middle, end or four for characters, setting, problem and solution. Then holding the paper with the long fold at the top, cut the smaller fold lines of the top half to make the flaps. Don’t cut the bottom half. Have the children label the story elements on the flap and open each flap to draw or write about that element for the story.
Sequencing Strips - Here is an easy way to practice sequencing. Show the students how to fold a sheet of plain white paper accordion style so that it has five or six sections. Then have them write the events of the story in order in each section. Students who have a hard time remembering the correct sequence can cut the strips apart, put them in order and then glue them to another sheet of paper. To extend the activity the students can glue each event to a separate sheet of paper and illustrate it. Then staple the pages together for a book that retells the original story. There are more ideas on practicing sequencing in The Tiny Seed with story recall pictures.
To review retelling write story elements or sequence words (first, next, etc) on separate index cards or sentence strips. Pass them out to students after a read aloud and have each student with a card tell his part of the story. This is a great activity to use with small groups or to review the previous day’s chapter in a novel that you are reading aloud to the class.
Read Aloud Books
These are just a few of the many read aloud books that work well for teaching young children about retelling.
Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel
These books are great for young children learning to retell stories. Each book contains four or five short stories about Frog and Toad and their adventures. Read one story a day, modeling retelling with the first one or two, then working together to retell and finally letting the children retell a story independently.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
This sweet story is about a baby bat that gets separated from her mother when an owl attacks and ends up learning to live with a group of baby birds. It is an engaging tale with a memorable sequence of events that make it a good choice for students learning about retelling and story elements.
Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe
A young boy spends a summer evening catching fireflies and when their light begins to fade, he has to make a difficult decision. This is great for teaching or reviewing how to find the beginning, middle and ending of a story with students.
Koala Lou by Mem Fox
As Koala Lou’s family grow, she feels she doesn’t get enough attention from her busy mother, so she enters the Bush Olympics, hoping to win the tree climbing event and regain her mother’s love. Of course, she soon learns that her mother loves her no matter what. A fun read aloud that is perfect for retelling!
These read aloud books for retelling, are not only fun read alouds, but they contain easy to follow storylines that are perfect for young children who are just beginning to retell stories.