Perhaps you can remember from your own childhood, or have seen this in your kids or students - but children LOVE to reread the same books over and over and over again. I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have read Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen or Thank you, Mr Falker by Patrica Polacco. And I’m pretty sure I can recite Benji Davies's Grandad’s Island, word for word by now.
The rereading and retelling of familiar stories can be quite nurturing for young learners and literary lovers. Furthermore, it establishes a familiarity with characters, their behaviors and vocabulary. The benefits of storytelling with children is an extensive topic, but the highlights on practising this with your child at home or students in the classroom include building literacy foundations in:
sequencing sentences to form a short narrative
becoming familiar with and starting to use repetitive phrases from a story
noticing and developing changes in voice to show characters, emotions and changes in a story.
given the opportunity, talking about characters, forming and sharing opinions about them
Once a child is familiar with a story from hearing it multiple times, encourage and engage in retelling play. This can be beneficial for children throughout the primary years, and with some adaptation, it can even be a powerful technique with teens and young adults.
Here are 5 creative ways to retell a story that I regularly use in the classroom:
1. Finger puppets, stick puppets, paper roll characters:
Print out, copy or draw the characters from your familiar story. Spend time with this! Enjoy it, look back at the book if you have it, look closely! Find all the details. When your characters are ready, use them to act out the story.
2. Illustrate the setting, combine with the puppets:
A setting is often as important as the characters. Hidden within its depths are often clues about the characters and the plot of the story. It's more than just a picture. Recreating frames of a story opens doors to creative expression and expanding on understanding.
3. Story Map
Just like a road map (remember what those were?!). In fact, I like to start story maps with a road. I take a long paper and draw a curvy road across it or sometimes it loops back around if the story starts and ends in the same place. With my students we retell the story together and several children draw on one large story map. Important events get recorded in colorful pictures in order along the road. Afterwards, familiar phrases and important quotes get added on. This is often a beautiful literacy journey.
Drawing a story map is beneficial and creative, however it should be paired with oral rehearsal, sequencing orally and building vocabulary. It is best to pair illustrated story maps with conversations that recount what was read.
4. Reader's Theater
Collaboratively write your own (or use a pre-made script) to create a drama of the familiar story. Adding props, costumes and elements of the setting helps to deepen the understanding of the story.
5. Story Bag / Basket:
In a bag or basket, collect items that represent different moments in the story. Then take these items out one at a time, in order, to retell what happened. This can become a routine in class for sharing and reflecting on learning by including it into a lesson closure by gathering around in a circle and taking turns retelling collectively.
Tip for teaching - It is truly about the process, not the outcome. Live through it and have fun, this is an integral part of developing a positive learning attitude.
Remember to be playful, incorporate as many materials and props as needed and model creativity and a love for reading yourself. The story does not have to be perfect or the same as it was originally written - storytellers always change the story :) sometimes a lot and sometimes a little.
Check out this FREE resource (and many others) that I've created on storytelling, including a video, podcast and teaching resources. Titled, Hassani, it is a beautiful story of a boy in Iran who doesn't want to take a bath. It's both adorable and engaging for young learners to listen to and learn the repetitive text as the young boy travels through his village hoping to find a friend.
I would absolutely LOVE to see how story retelling comes to life for you, so if you share on social media, please remember to tag me @OurYellowBench. Comment below with questions.
As always, happy teaching and learning!
PS. Did you know that you can get an absolutely FREE teaching resource from me each month? It's true! Sign up here for my monthly newsletter and get something unique, creative and beautiful for your classroom every month 🥰