• Appealing storybooks containing a problem and resolution
  • Chalkboard or experience chart
  • Props and/or flannel board pieces related to the story used for instruction (optional).


  • desire to express their ideas to teachers and peers in informal settings through speech, drawing, and print efforts
  • ability to gather meaning from reading or listening to others read resources that are related to personal interests and experiences

Resource Instructions

  1. Choose an appealing story with a problem and its resolution (or a goal and its achievement). Read the story to yourself and plan your retelling by deciding on the most important events to include, and which details to leave out.
  2. Read the story once to your class or small group. Show students the book and read it through. Limit your questioning and discussion, and just let everyone enjoy the story for its own sake.
  3. Model retelling. The next day, tell the children you are going to tell them the story from memory without using the book. Show them the book, and then put it away and retell the story with enthusiasm and expression. Sometimes you may want to use flannel board pieces, props, or realia (real objects and materials from the story such as, mittens or grains of wheat) to add interest and make important details more memorable. Flannel board pieces are also useful to strengthen children's abilities to sequence the episodes (important events) in the story.
  4. Demonstrate your planning. Using the chalkboard or an experience chart, show the children the parts of the story you wanted to remember. For emerging learners, you may simply want to focus on the characters, main events, and their general sequence. Write "Character/s", "Beginning", "Middle", and "End". Explain to students that the characters are whom the book is about and ask students to help you recall the characters as you write them down. Tell students you had to think about how the book started so you would know how to begin. Write down one or two sentences about what happened first under the heading "Beginning" and read them, or have the children read them with you. Incorporate some of the language used in the book in your sentences (key vocabulary, descriptive words, repetitive patterns, etc.). Do the same for the middle and end of the story. Talk about the idea that telling a story is a way to entertain people and get others interested in reading the book. Explain that this means you want to tell the story with expression and use the language of the book, if the book had interesting words or patterns.
  5. Ask one of the children to place the book and any props you used with it in the library center, and suggest that they may want to use these to retell the story to each other during Center Time.

Suggestions for Older Students21 []

To extend the abilities of older learners related to the development of story sense, you may want to focus on the concepts of setting, plot (particularly the central problem), and theme in addition to the main episodes and sequence. Use a procedure such as the following:

  1. Setting. Describe the setting as where and when the story took place and demonstrate the ways this is often incorporated into the first sentences. For example, Once upon a time; Long ago and far away; One dark and stormy night; In a dark, dark, wood; or Something was wrong at our house. Remind students to pay attention to the setting when they read or when you read a book together. Ask them to note and share interesting ways that authors tell about the setting of a book. Collect examples of opening sentences that give information about where or when the story took place, and write them on a chart labeled "Setting".
  2. Plot. Describe the plot as what happened in the story and give examples of ways the plot usually revolves around a central problem. Do this through referring to the central problems in books with which students are familiar. Pick a book they have read and talk with the students about:
    • an important problem in the story (there may be more than one), why the problem was important, and how it was solved, OR
    • identify one character in the book and ask "What problem did ____have? Why was it important? How did ____ resolve it?"
  3. Theme. Choose a book familiar to the students that has a recognizable moral or message such as, the message in the Little Red Hen that suggests that "If you want to enjoy the rewards, you should help with the work." Ask a question such as, "What lesson did the animals in this book need to learn?"


Can student retell entire story by making a concise summary beforehand? Does student use interesting voice and vocabulary when retelling?

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