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5 Creative Ways to Retell a Story

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.

  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.

  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. Here, for retelling Little Red Riding Hood, are a small collection of items that prompt memories of different parts of the story.

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.


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 in IG @ouryellowbench or #sativareads


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