KinderGals: Developing Strategic Readers Through Retelling Stories

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Developing Strategic Readers Through Retelling Stories

Ever heard the saying, "If you wait long enough everything comes back in style?" Well, teaching is no different. Over the years teaching philosophies have gone "out" to, only a few years later, come back "in" under another title.  I remember when I first started teaching we had "objectives", much like we have "standards" today in that they helped guide our teaching. One of our objectives said, "Children will role play stories." Today, we have "beefed" up the wording, but it is basically the same--"The children will comprehend stories." Role playing is one way for young children to show us that they comprehend the story through retelling the key elements. 
Today we teach children to be strategic readers.  Here's a perfect example: If we ask kids to tell us the different settings in "The Three Pigs", that only helps them with that particular story. But, if we tell kids that "authors sequence settings in a story to help the reader. If we can remember the sequence of settings that the characters visit, we can use that to help us retell." Now, children can use that to help retell any story where settings change through out the story. This means we want to teach strategy OVER story. While the story is important, it is more important that children become strategic readers so they can comprehend many pieces of text.
Here are a few ideas for different text strategies that we can teach young readers:
Sequencing settings
These retelling pieces help children to discover that settings can change. We want children to know that stories can have one or many settings. We also want them to know if we can sequence the settings, we can use that to help us retell the story.
Character bibs are a great way for each child to remember which character they are role playing. Assign the children the various characters.  Invite the children to recall the various settings. Use that information to sequence the three pigs.
This is a fun way for kids to make their own retelling project for "The Three Pigs." Invite the children to make their pig books and the wolf. Attach the wolf to the pig book with a piece of ribbon or string.  On each page in the book, the children draw the various settings.  Now, the wolf can travel through the settings as they retell the story.
This is a super fun way to retell "The Snowy Day."  I made setting cards for the various places that Peter visited on the snowy day. Then, I attached them to blocks so that they would stand up.  I also attached Peter to a block.  Invite the children to sequence the setting cards. Spread some cotton balls to make a snowy day. Now Peter can travel to each setting as they retell the story.
This can also be done as an individual project. First, create a snowy scene on a piece of blue paper. This can be done in various ways--fly swat painting, bubble prints, spool prints, etc. Then, invite the children to sequence the setting cards around the edge of the paper.  After creating Peter, attach him with a string to the paper. The children can retell the story as they move Peter around the paper. 
You might also want to invite the children to write the story. Attach the story to the center of the paper. 
Sequencing characters
These retelling pieces help children to discover that stories can have one or many characters. We also want them to know if we can sequence the characters, we can use that to help us retell the story.
This flap book makes a great prop to use when you are modeling how to retell the story. Create a table with the various characters in order. Bind the page with a background page of the setting from the story.  Cut between the characters. Flap all of the characters to the back of the setting. As you retell the story, flap the characters to the front.
This project is made just like "The Three Pigs" except on each page the children will draw the various characters. 
 Often authors give readers a little extra help with remembering the sequence of characters. They will often sequence the characters by size. Think of "The Mitten" and other such stories where they are various animals. In "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" the author has the billy goats go across the bridge according to the size.  For this simple retelling activity, invite the children to cut out the goats and glue them to popsicle sticks. Create the background. As the children retell the story, they move the goats over the bridge.
Stories Have Patterns
These retelling pieces help children to discover a book pattern. We want children to know, “If we can sequence the characters/settings, we can use that to help us retell the story.”
 This is one of my all time favorite stories, "I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie."  It follows the same pattern as the popular "I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." To retell this story, we made a pie by cutting off the top of a paper bag and gluing the title to the top.  The children cut out the pictures of the items eaten by the old lady at Thanksgiving.  After sequencing the pictures, the children are ready to retell the story as they place the pictures inside the paper bag pie.
Do you see the book in the picture? Here's the question, "Do we allow the children to have the book while they are retelling the story?" The current research says, yes! It is important that children learn to support their answers.  They must be able to find evidence in the text.  In the early years, we tell children that good readers go back to the text. It is not a guessing game
 This is a great little lift the flap project for retelling "1,2 Buckle My Shoe."  Fold a piece of 12x18 paper in half. Cut the top flap into 6 sections. Invite the children to sequence the numeral cards from 1-10. Glue them on the top flaps. Now, sequence the pictures to tell the story. Glue one under each flap.
Keys for Retelling
Here are some key ideas to think about when using retelling as a comprehension strategy.
  1. Don't pass out the pieces for retelling when you are reading the book for the first time. This takes the focus off of the story and onto the pieces. Also, how can it be "retelling" if it is the first time they are hearing the story?
  2. Refer to the book. Tell children that good readers go back to the text to find the answers. Use the text to sequence characters and settings or to discover the pattern.
  3. Children develop prosody through repeated retelling. Oral retelling develops oral prosody. As the children become independent text readers, this develops the child's ability to "sound like a good reader."
  4. Strategy over story. It isn't about them "learning" a particular story. It is about them learning to become strategic readers. We can use retelling to teach them how good readers are able to comprehend stories.
Retelling Pieces Included for:
All of these props are from the "Retelling: Props and Activities for 10 Popular Children's Books". Kim Jordano and I wrote this unit together. The unit contains retelling activities for the following stories:
Settings Can Change:
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • The Three Pigs
  • The Snowy Day
Sequencing Characters to Retell:
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear
  • Chicken Little
  • The 3 Billy Goats Gruff
  • The Napping House
Books Have Patterns:
  • Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books (Bonus Extra Set)
  • Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie
  • Mrs. Wishy Washy
  • 1, 2 Buckle My Shoe

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susan berkowitz, slp said...

As an SLP I adore the way you help children to learn strategies they can apply to any story - or to history lessons! Sequencing is important and oral re-telling really pulls all of the language skills together. Thanks for a great post.

Paul Cianfaglione said...
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