Informational Retelling: Main idea, detail, detail, detail

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SWBAT define Informational Retelling and practice it with books from their browsing boxes.

Big Idea

Introducing the concept of Informational Retelling


Retelling informational text is very different than narrative text. With a narrative, you are retelling a story, which includes details from the beginning, middle, and end, no matter how long or short the text is. With informational text, you retell each heading as an individual piece by identifying the main idea then adding in the details. I have already taught students how to summarize (main idea) and also how to retell a story (details) and now I’m going to teach them how to combine the two in a hybrid of sorts to retell headings within informational text (main idea, detail, detail, detail).


I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately 1 week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day one of Informational Retelling Week – Introducing the Strategy. 


10 minutes

Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first time they are learning about Informational Retelling this year, I start by asking them to think back to our Summarizing Unit a few weeks back.  I want them to remember that Summarizing is when you identify just the main idea of a story. Then I remind them of our recent Narrative Retelling Unit, which is essentially the opposite of Summarizing, because it’s all about the details.


Teaching Point:This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on Informational Retelling, which is when we tell a heading again using the main idea, detail, detail, detail format.  Show them the anchor chart. I tell them that when we are looking at non-fiction text, we need to focus on one heading at a time because each one has unique information about a common topic.   


Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I ask them to think about how the heading title can help them with their retelling. I give them about two minutes of thinking time then I ask them to turn and talk to their partners to share.  Hopefully they will make the connection that the title of the heading can help them with their retelling because it usually indicates the main idea of the text that follows. Once they’ve identified the main idea of the heading, it’s easy to find details to elaborate on it.


Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced Informational Retelling, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is to notice the main idea and details for each heading to practice Informational Retelling. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they practiced. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.


Guided Practice

45 minutes

Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get 5 minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for 40 minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading.  


Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to share summaries from the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups. Because this portion of Reader’s Workshop is meant to be flexible and student based, it is not beneficial to plan too far ahead of time. Instead, you should gauge which students may need extra support through the mini-lesson, prior assessments, reading levels, overall ability and need for scaffolding. For Informational Retelling support, I will read with specific students, either with their own books or a teacher selected book, and help them identify the main idea and details for specific headings.



5 minutes

At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to identify Informational Retelling in their books. I ask them to repeat the term, Informational Retelling. Then I tell them to meet with their reading partner to share what they found. Were they able to identify the main idea? Did they find at least three details?  How do they know for sure that the book they used was Informational? After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on Informational Retelling for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.