Retell A Story With DEEP Connections!

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SWBAT recount parts of a story and connect to the text as well as determine the theme.

Big Idea

When students look for deeper connections, they reveal the theme of a story and connect.


  • I'm Sorry! by Mercer Mayer (I chose this book because the idea of 'saying sorry' is something we have as part of our social skills training.  The kids can really CONNECT to being hurt or having to apologize. You could use another book, as long as it has good connecting opportunities)
  • Transition Words poster
  • whiteboard setup
  • Large piece of construction paper for each student (I used 11x13 paper so my students had lots of room to write)
  • Lesson vocabulary words from the Reading/Writing word wall: theme, connection, sequence, transition words, details

Let's Get Excited

10 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Get students engaged:

  • To get the kids thinking, use the phrase ‘I’m sorry’ a few times as you work on the whiteboard or as you walk around the room so the kids notice.  Bump a desk, cough, knock a pencil off and say ‘I’m sorry’ each time.


Bring students to the same learning point:

  • Review the idea of a  deep connection is looking over the whiteboard setup. "How are deep and shallow connections different?" . This visual was used in a previous lesson - "Go Deeper and Make Connections".
  • “Deep connections link our feelings, memories, words, and knowledge to the new story and extend our thinking. They give us more information about the story and help us understand it better.  Deep connections help us understand the theme of the story.”
  • “In the last lesson, we linked our feelings to the story.  Today we’ll connect with memories and experiences, as well as feelings. As we make our connections, we’ll make a project that shows how much the connections expanded our understanding!" 

Teachers' Turn

15 minutes

Set the lesson purpose:

  • The title of my book is…. Can you guess… What did I repeat over and over again a few moments ago?..... the title is I’m Sorry!.  Before I show you the picture, take a minute and connect with those words. Have you ever had to say ‘I’m sorry?” 
  • “What do you think the main idea of this story is?  What is the theme?  What’s the big idea? I’ll read a few pages of the story and then we’ll retell the details in the correct sequence. If we connect as we read, it helps us understand the rest of the story!”


Modeling and Guided practice:

  • Read up to the page where the boy knocked the toys on the floor. Make a list of ideas in the ‘details’ column.
  • Work with students to add some memories and experiences that connect to the story ideas.
  • Add some transition words to put the events in order. (use the transition words poster)  I had just taught a lesson-Tie It Together with Transition Words.  See reflection about these transition words......
  • Here's my completed whiteboard
  • “Wow, those connections really add meaning to the story for me. These words help tie together a sequence of events and retell the story in order.”


Second graders can connect to stories, but seldom use these connections to bring more meaning to the text without explicit instruction. By modeling and guiding students through the process of identifying ideas that they can connect to and determining key ideas, they are able to see how their connections can fit together sequentially into the main theme of the story. Students that can recount stories and determine key ideas (RL.2.2) in 2nd grade will continue through 6th grade, setting the foundation for determining the theme of a piece and providing concrete evidence of the details. 

The Students Take a Turn

15 minutes

Independent Practice:

  • “We've done a few connections as we read the story.  When you connect as you read, it helps you to bring meaning to the story. 
  • You will finish the story and make some more connections.  We are practicing two ways to connect - as you read to bring meaning to the end of the story and connecting at the end of the story to bring meaning to all that you've read.” Read and pause to emphasize some details that students might connect to.


Explain the Project:

  • Pass out the construction paper and have students make the chart. Here's a video of one of my students making it.  Give them a few moments to write 3 details. 
  • Emphasize that the students make one connection to the story as a whole (after it is read).
  • Students add connections on the right side. "Make sure your connection is deep – it includes a memory, or experience, or feeling."
  • They add transition words to put the events in order the left side.
  • See whiteboard example to prompt students who need help getting started.
  • Put a 'theme' or title on the back of my project.  "What is this story about – can you tell me in one or 2 words?"  (Prompt with ideas – you’re really looking for ‘love’ or ‘forgiveness’ or ‘apologies’)." Write the theme on the back and use an illustration.”

Apply What You've Learned

10 minutes

Student share:

  • Here's an example of one of my student's work.
  • “Does anyone want to share their connections and how it helped them? “  
  • As they share, help them verbalize how those connections help them – it sounds like you know how the critter feels because you broke mom’s vase….When you were too noisy, did Dad make you go to your room?....
  • “You did a great job today making DEEP connections and retelling the story!  If you can do this as you read everyday, it will help you be a better reader!”


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

For my special education students, they needed a lot of support with making deep connections.  I prompted them as I walked around and gave one boy ideas on his desk slate so he could participate. Although this was hard for them and they needed lots of support, they really enjoyed participating in the guided practice and did develop an understanding of what a 'deep connection' could be.

For my higher level students, this was great lesson to challenge them. As I walked around, I asked them about their connections and really asked them to hone in on how the connection helped them to understand.  It was good practice for them to explain 'how they know what they know'.  Great cognitive ed thinking!