3 Ideas To Increase Retelling Skills In Young Readers
Let’s chat about literacy today. Specifically, let’s talk about retelling!
Retelling is one of the first reading skills I focus on with my students. We spend a great deal of time throughout the year drawing, writing, and orally retelling the events in a story. We practice with fiction books and we practice with informational text. We practice in whole group, small group, and in one-on-one conferences. We retell with partners and we retell independently. Retelling is also an important assessment for our report cards, standards, and when we DRA and level our readers. So, it only makes sense that as teachers, we collaborate and discuss the various ways we help our young readers grasp the important reading skill of retelling.
Why is the ability to retell important to readers?
Retelling is an important foundational skill for young readers. It promotes story comprehension and helps students develop expressive vocabulary. When students can retell a story, they are activating their thinking abilities, visualization abilities, and even their imaginations. They are also developing sequencing skills as they work to explain and retell the events of a story in the order they read them. Students who can read a text and retell the story have an understanding of print concepts and story plot. Not to mention, we use retelling skills all the time as adults and life-long readers! Think about a book you have read recently for personal enjoyment. You loved the book and are excited to share it with others, right?! Someone then asks you, “What is the story about?” As you begin to explain what happened throughout the book, your purpose for retelling the story to your friend is exactly the reason we teach retelling to our students – we want them to be able to SHARE stories, books, and information with others!
What makes retelling difficult for some readers?
Retelling can be tricky for some kids! Some of the important prerequisite skills for retelling include solid sequencing skills and even the child’s working memory. Do you have kids who can only remember the beginning and end of the book when you ask them to retell? While remembering the beginning and the ending shows the child has reached certain milestones in the art of retelling, it could possibly mean the child’s working memory is not strong enough to remember ALL of the events. As a result, the child struggles to retell the events in the middle of the book. If your students are struggling with retelling, they may be lacking in one or more of these prerequisite skills.
What are some ideas and strategies to help readers become confident in their retelling skills?
Let’s take a look at just a few strategies and activities we can use to help promote retelling skills in our young readers. Of course, there are MANY ways to help our readers work on their retelling skills, but let’s focus on a few practical ideas you can implement into your small groups and classroom this week! Here we go!
Throughout my years of teaching, I have noticed a pattern in some of my students’ retelling abilities. They start to retell the story, but the events seem to be mushed into one BIG event. It’s hard for them to mentally and orally separate the beginning, middle, and end of the book they read when they begin to retell the story to me. To work on this, we use sticky notes while we read the story. The students draw or write each part of the story directly onto the sticky notes as they read. You could use three sticky notes to start with: beginning, middle, and end. If you want to get more advanced, you could even have five or six sticky notes for the beginning, three events in the middle of the book, and one for the end. There are many ways to differentiate this activity with your readers! Using the different sticky notes can often “separate” the events for the reader in a visual way. They can mentally and visually “see” each specific event or part of the plot.
But what do you do if you have students who simply CAN’T remember the story when they are done reading the book? The child might still be developing his or her working memory skills. To differentiate for the students, place the sticky notes IN the book. Have the child read the first couple pages of the beginning. When the child gets to the end of the “beginning” of the book, he or she immediately retells the beginning right on the sticky note WITHOUT waiting until the entire book has been read.
Again, the child continues to read until he or she finishes reading the entire middle section of the book (You could differentiate even more by placing a sticky note after EACH event within the book.). When the child reaches the end of the “middle” of the book, the child again retells what he or she read by drawing or writing.
Finally, place another sticky note at the end of the book and have the child retell the ending of the story.
Children thrive on visual cues and hands-on learning! So, it only makes sense that we make retelling a highly visual and hands-on activity as we teach our students. I love to use my Retelling Slider to help my students remember all of the parts of the story while they retell. You can find this retelling slider in my Retelling for Beginning Readers pack by clicking HERE.
By using a pipe cleaner and a bead (mine are pom-pom beads – SO fun, right?!), the child begins by retelling the characters and setting of the story. Then, the child proceeds to slide the bead down the bookmark as he or she retells what happened first, next, and last in the story. The pack also comes with coordinating passages and printables that match the slider and make the learning (and teaching) process simple and effective!
The passages are short, simple, and to the point, allowing students to focus on the skill of retelling and gain confidence in their ability to remember and comprehend each little story’s events.
Of course, like all of my reading passages and resources, fluency practice is a must! Rereading also promotes comprehension and retelling skills. The students read the story three times, coloring a happy face each time they read.
Finally, the students illustrate each part of the story’s plot to help them retell and comprehend. The passage printable contains the same visual cues as the Retelling Slider. This makes the entire lesson highly coordinated and helps struggling readers gain confidence in their retelling abilities.
Do you like this activity and want to use it in your classroom? These passages and the retelling tool can be found in my Retelling for Beginning Readers pack by clicking HERE or on the cover picture below:
I will be working on a pack that uses the Retelling Slider with more complex text and stories this summer! 🙂 This current edition is perfect for kindergarten and first graders, and/or at-risk readers and intervention specialists.
I can’t share retelling ideas for reading without connecting it to our students’ writing abilities. As teachers, we know how intricately connected reading and writing skills are to our students’ literacy abilities. Another strategy for students who struggle with retelling after they read a story, is to first start with their own writing. When a child writes his or her own story, he or she knows that story plot and sequence of events better than any random book we have the child read. Teach students how to retell their own stories before they learn how to retell an unknown author’s story. You will notice the child feels confident and capable. As a result, the child learns what retelling “feels” like and has a solid understanding of what you are asking him or her to do when you tell the child to “tell me what you read.” Let students first reread their writing to a partner. Then, move to retelling their story to a partner using only the pictures. Finally, have the students sit across from each other on the floor and simply orally retell the stories they wrote to one another. This is how storytelling was done long ago, and we should not forget what is sadly becoming a “lost art” in our world of literacy.
I hope you enjoyed these three ideas for increasing retelling skills with your students!
Below is an additional resource in my store that you might find helpful for retelling practice:
This is a great pack to use if you are a teacher who uses the DRA or Fountas & Pinnell leveling kit with your students. It provides great practice for the kids and is helpful to review and use during small group instruction. Students can work in partners or with a teacher to check off the events as the student orally retells the story. These passages would also make great informal assessments and practice at home with parents! 🙂
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