Retelling is a skill that is addressed in several Common Core Standards (RL.1.2, RL.1.3., and SL.1.6) and their corresponding College and Career Readiness Standards. Thinking about these standards and their relationship with College and Career Readiness, convinced me that it was worth investing time and thought into finding ways into teaching my students how to retell stories. "Tell me what happened" is just a starting point, but first graders, specially English Learners, need to be given a structure and simple models in order to do effective retelling.
In this lesson my students sketched the setting of a story and cut out pictures of the characters to practice retelling the story. I wanted them to draw, cut and manipulate to address the needs of students who remember better when given the opportunity to visualize, draw, and interact with material.
To introduce the strategy, I read the story to the class. However, the goal is to make them independent, and my idea is to eventually have this as part of the menu of independent activities they can do on their own when I am working with small groups.
Before beginning the story, I told them to pay close attention to the sequence of events because later they would have to retell the story using temporal words.
I gave the students 18X12 manila construction paper and modeled how to draw the setting and main character. This was a nice opportunity to review the basics with RL.1.1 - whatever the standard I am focusing on during a lesson, it is an added bonus to touch upon others. I also gave them a paper where I had copied pictures of the main characters and told them to cut them out (writing their name on the back since inevitably many would end on the floor or the wrong desk).
Then (after reading the story once more - see reflection) I had them whisper practice a retell to themselves using the props to help them.
Listening to students retell a story poses some challenges. If you do it one on one, most of your class has to work independently. In my case, with a class that has fluctuated between 28 and 33 students, this would mean half an hour without instruction. If you do it with a small group, students are listening to each other and you won't get a true idea of their independent ability. A possible solution is to have them pair share, and observe some pairs. This works better when they are retelling different stories, though so it wasn't appropriate for this lesson.
For this lesson, what I ended up doing was asking a parent volunteer to video tape students retelling the story individually. She was pulling students aside while I continued with lessons, and this worked very well.
It ended up giving me a great opportunity for formative assessment, too. In the low student video, you can see that the student does not use temporal words to retell the story. he also needs significant prompting to finish the retelling. The high student sample shows a very shy girl retelling with temporal words and referring to the cut outs to remember the sequence of events in the story. My English learners were able to complete the retelling using short, simple sentences with some grammar mistakes, but using temporal words and showing an understanding of the story.