How to Teach Retelling a Story

Retelling a story is an essential skill for students to learn to comprehend and analyze written texts. It involves the ability to accurately summarize the main events, characters, and themes of a story in one’s own words. As teachers, it is our responsibility to guide our students in developing this skill so that they can become better readers and critical thinkers.

How to Teach Retelling a Story

In this guide, we will explore effective strategies and techniques for how to teach retelling a story to students of all ages. From primary school to high school, these tips can be adapted and modified to suit the age and needs of your students. So let’s dive in!

Understanding the Importance of Retelling a Story

Retelling a story is not just about regurgitating the events of a text. It requires students to engage with the story on a deeper level, making connections and interpretations based on their understanding of the plot, characters, and themes.

By retelling a story, students are practicing important skills such as summarizing, paraphrasing, and synthesizing information. They are also developing their ability to identify key details and main ideas, which are crucial for comprehending complex texts.

Moreover, retelling a story allows students to express their thoughts and opinions about the text, encouraging critical thinking and analysis. This is an essential skill that they can apply not only in literature but also in other subjects and real-life situations.

10 Best Ways on How to Teach Retelling a Story

1. Start With a Familiar Story:

To introduce the concept of retelling a story, it is best to start with a familiar and well-loved tale. This could be a classic fairy tale or a popular children’s book that most students are familiar with. By using a familiar story, students can focus on practicing the skill of retelling without getting bogged down by trying to understand the plot or characters. This also helps in building confidence and interest in the exercise.

2. Use Graphic Organizers:

Organize Their Thoughts and Ideas

Graphic organizers, such as story maps or character webs, can be helpful tools for students to organize their thoughts and ideas while retelling a story. These visual aids provide a structure for students to follow and help them identify key elements of the story, such as the setting, main characters, and plot events.

They can also be used to compare and contrast different versions of the same story. If students struggle with writing, they can also use pictures or drawings to represent their ideas on the graphic organizer.

3. Model the Process:

Before asking students to retell a story independently, it is important to model the process for them. This could involve reading a short story as a class and then discussing and summarizing it together. As the teacher, you can model how to identify the main events, characters, and themes of the story and put them into your own words. This will help students understand what is expected of them when it is their turn to retell a story.

4. Use Storytelling Techniques:

Retelling a story does not have to be limited to just writing or speaking. Encourage students to use storytelling techniques, such as gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice, to make their retelling more engaging and interactive.

This can also help students who struggle with expressing themselves through writing or speaking to participate in the exercise. Using technology, such as creating a digital story or animation, can also be a fun and creative way for students to retell a story.

5. Incorporate Different Texts:

Practice This Skill With Audio Recordings

Retelling a story does not have to be limited to written texts. Students can also practice this skill with audio recordings, videos, or even plays or movies. This allows them to engage with the story in different ways and can be particularly helpful for students who are visual or auditory learners.

It also allows for a more diverse and inclusive representation of stories from different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. This can help students develop empathy and understanding of different narratives.

6. Provide Scaffolded Practice:

To help students build their retelling skills, provide scaffolded practice by gradually increasing the level of difficulty. This could involve starting with shorter and simpler texts and gradually moving on to more complex ones.

You can also provide sentence starters or prompts for students to use while retelling, such as “First, …”, “Next, …”, “Finally, …” This will help them structure their retelling and stay focused on the main events. As they become more proficient, slowly remove the scaffolds and encourage independent retelling.

7. Encourage Peer Feedback:

Peer feedback is a powerful tool for learning, as it allows students to receive constructive criticism from their peers. After each retelling exercise, pair students up and ask them to give feedback on each other’s retellings. This could involve asking specific questions, such as “What did you like about their retelling?” or “How could they improve their retelling?”

This will not only help students improve their retelling skills but also foster a positive and collaborative learning environment.

8. Connect to Student’s Personal Experiences:

Asking Them How They Would Feel

To make the exercise of retelling more meaningful and relatable for students, encourage them to make connections to their personal experiences. This could involve asking them how they would feel if they were in a character’s shoes or what they would do differently if they were the protagonist of the story.

By making these connections, students will develop a deeper understanding and connection to the text, making retelling a more engaging and meaningful exercise.

9. Use Real-World Examples:

Retelling a story does not have to be limited to fictional texts. You can also use real-world examples, such as news articles or historical events, to practice this skill. This will help students see the relevance and importance of retelling in their everyday lives.

It will also provide them with opportunities to develop critical thinking skills by analyzing and evaluating information from different sources. This is a valuable skill that they can apply in their academic and personal lives.

10. Differentiate Instruction:

Every student learns differently, and it is important to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners. This could involve providing different versions of the same story at varying levels of difficulty or using different types of texts, such as picture books or graphic novels.

You can also provide additional support or challenges for students based on their individual needs. By differentiating instruction, you are promoting an inclusive and supportive learning environment where all students can succeed in retelling a story.

Different Versions of the Same Story

Following these tips and strategies can help students develop their retelling skills, which are essential for reading comprehension and critical thinking. By incorporating different methods and techniques, you can make retelling a fun, interactive, and meaningful exercise for students of all ages and abilities.  So next time you ask your students to retell a story, remember to use these tips to enhance their learning experience. Happy retelling!

Additional Tips and Tricks to Teach Retelling a Story

1. If students are struggling with retelling a story, try using graphic organizers such as story maps or sequencing charts to help them visually organize the events in the story.

2. Encourage students to use descriptive language when retelling a story, such as using adjectives and adverbs to describe characters, settings, and actions.

3. Model how to summarize and paraphrase key plot points in the story, as well as how to identify important themes and messages.

4. Allow students to practice retelling stories in different formats, such as through role-playing or creating their own versions of the story.

5. Use real-life examples or familiar stories to help students make connections and better understand the structure of a story.

6. Incorporate technology by having students use digital storytelling tools to retell a story, adding multimedia elements such as images, videos, and sound effects.

7. Encourage peer-to-peer feedback and discussions about each other’s retelling of the same story, promoting critical thinking and reflection.

8. Provide students with opportunities to retell stories in different contexts, such as retelling a story from a different point of view or retelling a story in a different period.

9. As students become more confident in retelling stories, challenge them to incorporate their creative twists and turns to the story, while still staying true to the main plot points.

10. Remind students that retelling a story is not just about summarizing events, but also about understanding and conveying the emotions, themes, and messages within the story. Encourage them to think critically about these elements as they retell a story.

Incorporate Their Creative Twists

Following these additional tips and tricks can help students become more proficient in retelling stories, which is an important skill for comprehension and effective communication. Remember to also provide positive reinforcement and celebrate students’ progress as they continue to practice and improve their retelling skills.  Keep in mind that every student learns differently, so be flexible and adapt your teaching methods to meet the needs of each student. 

By incorporating these tips and tricks into your teaching, you can make retelling stories a fun and engaging activity for students, while also helping them develop important literacy skills.  So why wait? Start using these strategies in your classroom today and see the difference it makes in your students’ retelling abilities!  Happy teaching!

Things You Should Consider to Teach Retelling a Story

1. Understanding the Story:

Before teaching how to retell a story, students need to have a thorough understanding of the story itself. This includes knowing the characters, setting, plot, and key events in the story. Encourage students to read or listen to the story multiple times to fully comprehend it. You can also have the students write a summary of the story to ensure they have a good grasp of its content.

2. Identifying Main Events:

To retell a story, students need to be able to identify and summarize the main events in the story. This includes recognizing the beginning, middle, and end of the story, as well as key events that move the plot forward. Have students create a timeline of events or make a list of important events to help them understand the story’s structure.

3. Describing Characters:

Describe the Characters

When retelling a story, students need to describe the characters in the story and their actions. This will not only help bring the story to life but also show that the student has understood the characters’ motivations and emotions. Encourage students to use descriptive language when talking about the characters, such as their appearance, personality, and feelings.

4. Using Sequencing Words:

Sequencing words is important in retelling a story as it helps to connect events and make the narrative flow smoothly. Some examples of sequencing words include first, next, then, finally, and in conclusion. Teach students to use these words to link the main events in the story and create a coherent retelling. Using sequencing words also helps students to structure their retelling and keep the story organized.

5. Including Details:

Details are what make a story come alive, and students should be encouraged to include them in their retelling. This includes specific details about the characters, setting, and key events that help paint a vivid picture for the listener. Remind students to use their senses to describe the story, such as what they saw, heard, or felt while reading or listening to it.

6. Practicing Retelling:

The best way for students to master retelling a story is by practicing it regularly. This can be done through various methods such as partner work, group discussions, or even acting out the story. Encourage students to retell familiar stories to start with and gradually move on to more challenging ones. This will not only improve their retelling skills but also their comprehension and communication abilities.

7. Providing Feedback:

As students practice retelling, it is important to provide them with constructive feedback. This can include praising their strengths and identifying areas for improvement. Encourage students to ask questions about the story and actively listen to their peers when they are retelling. This will help them improve their storytelling skills and also foster a positive learning environment.

Praising Their Strengths

Following these considerations can help students become better at retelling a story and develop their reading and comprehension skills. With enough practice and guidance, students will be able to confidently retell any story, making it a fun and engaging activity for both the teller and the listener.  So, make sure to incorporate these tips into your teaching to help students become great storytellers! Happy teaching!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Retelling and Why is It Important?

Retelling involves summarizing or recapping a story that has been read or heard. It is an essential skill for young students as it helps them develop their understanding of key events, characters, and plots in a story. It also allows them to practice their ability to recall and retell details, which is crucial for comprehension and critical thinking.

What Are the Benefits of Teaching Retelling?

Teaching retelling has many benefits for students. It helps improve their memory, listening skills, and oral language development. It also increases their ability to comprehend and analyze stories by encouraging them to make connections and predictions. Additionally, retelling can boost students’ confidence in public speaking and storytelling.

How Can Teachers Teach Retelling?

There are various strategies that teachers can use to teach retelling. One effective method is to model the skill by using a read-aloud or shared reading activity. The teacher can then guide the students through the process of summarizing a story, including identifying key elements such as characters, setting, and plot. Other strategies include using graphic organizers or picture cues to help students organize their retelling.

What Are Some Activities That Can Help Students Practice Retelling?

There are many engaging activities that teachers can use to help students practice retelling. Some examples include role-playing popular stories with puppets or props, creating story maps, and having students retell a story in their own words. Teachers can also incorporate technology by using apps or websites that allow students to create digital retelling projects.

How Can Retelling Be Incorporated Into Different Subjects?

Retelling can be incorporated into various subjects, not just English Language Arts. For example, in social studies, students can summarize historical events or biographies. In science, they can retell the steps of a scientific experiment or summarize the life cycle of a plant or animal. In math, students can retell the steps to solving a problem or explain their reasoning behind a solution.


All in all, knowing how to teach retelling a story is crucial for students’ development in many areas. It helps them improve their comprehension, critical thinking skills, and oral language abilities.

By using various strategies and activities, teachers can make retelling an engaging and enjoyable learning experience for their students. Incorporating retelling into different subjects also allows for a more well-rounded education that integrates storytelling skills into all areas of learning.

So, let’s continue to encourage and support our students in developing their retelling skills, as it will benefit them not only academically but also in their future personal and professional lives. Happy teaching!  

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Loren Jones

Hi, my name is Loren. I live with my husband and 4 lovely kiddos in the Eastern part of San-fransisco. I have a smart beautiful,curious 6 year old daughter, a handsome 11-year-old son, an intelligent and tech geek 15 years old son and a creative, artistic 12-year-old stepson. With each of my kids being five years apart, I feel that I’m now continually phasing in and out of each stage of parenting! I’ve learned a lot about the way children learn and behave, especially in a school setting with regards to curriculum. I enjoy sharing that insight through my writing and hope that it can help others.

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