Retelling the Text

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SWBAT retell the stages of a caterpillar’s life from egg to butterfly

Big Idea

Its easy, you start with, 'The caterpillar hatches from an egg', instead of, 'Once upon a time'.


Common Core Connection:

My students have had a lot of experience with retelling the events in literary stories. Butterfly is a good resource for introducing this concept of retelling to informational texts because it depicts the life cycle of the butterfly, which is somewhat narrative in sequence, in an interesting and easy to read format.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson my students will read the informational text Butterfly, by Mary Ling for the first time.  They will then use their skills of retelling literary stories to retell the sequence of events a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 8: Our Earth, Butterfly, by Mary Ling

(If you do not use this curriculum try: Caterpillar to Butterfly, by Lisa M. Herrington) 

  • 9x12 white construction paper , folded in fourths, 1 per student


5 minutes

We started today’s lesson on the rug where I began by giving my students a moment to remember the literary story we read the day before.  After a moment I used the magic cup to select students to retell the beginning, middle, and end of the story.  Once finished with this quick review, I told my students that they could apply the same skills to retell the important facts in an informational text.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

I then had my students glide to their desks like a graceful butterfly.  I modeled what this would look like, pointing out that when a butterfly glides it does not flap its wings.  This is an example of adding vocabulary to movement, which helps 1st graders, who are such concrete learners, remember the new words.

Once at their desks with their anthologies out I gave them a moment to take a Picture Walk through Butterfly, by Mary Ling.  Giving my students the opportunity to look at the pictures prior to reading a story or text helps them make more informed predictions of what the story will be about, as well as helps keep them focused on the text when we start reading.  After my students finished looking at the pictures, I instructed them to share with their table partner what they knew from looking at the pictures about what this informational text would be about.  This is another activity I do with an initial reading to help familiarize my students to the text.  I then had my students whisper to me what they knew this informational text was going to be about.  Whispering to me gives all my students an opportunity to be actively engaged.  (In this case, since all my students are familiar with butterflies they shouted out their answers ...)

I then used the magic cup to select several readers to read one or two pages of the text, reminding them that while their classmates were reading they were to nod their head “yes” when the reader did a good job, or shake their head “no” if the reader needed help.  I then used the magic cup to select students to read one or two pages.  During a first read, like this, I like to hear as many students read as possible.  This helps me determine my student’s fluency and comprehension, which helps me, make decisions about needing to re-teach vocabulary and/ or concepts.

Once my students finished reading I had them share with their table partners the events of the beginning, middle, and end of this text.  To do this I have students sitting on the same side of the desks as The Helper of the Day be partner one.  Partner one shares the beginning events, while partner two listens.  Then partner two shares the middle, while partner one listens.  The whole time I am listening to partner pairs to make sure they are on task.

When my students were finished I gave them directions for the next learning activity.

Collaborative Activity

15 minutes

To start this activity, I displayed a copy of white construction paper on the Promethean board, pointing out that it was folded in fourths.  I then wrote Beginning in the upper left corner, middle in the upper right corner, middle continued in the lower left corner, and ending in the lower right corner.  As I wrote these titles I explained that they were to draw a picture that goes with each title and write a sentence about what the picture is about.  I then passed out their construction paper, which was already folded in fourths, and had them copy the section titles in each section.  Before they actually started working I used the magic cup to select a student to retell the class what they were to do.  

This activity does not really lend itself to students working together to create an end product. However, when students are drawing and coloring, they like to sit next to their friends.  For this activity I instructed them to find two other students they wanted to sit next to to finish their work.  In order to finish, they could use their books to refer back to for sequencing and spelling, they could talk to their partners as long as it was about the text and work at hand. What the video titled Knows the Sequence does not show is how these two boys were checking their books to make sure they had the important details they wanted to include on their drawing.  

As my students worked I circled around to each group to monitor their progress and answer any questions they.  In the video titled Partner Work I am checking the group's understanding of what they are doing.  It is important to check in with all groups during these types of activities, because students will surprise you.  The student in Partner Work is a top student who needed extra attention to stay focused, while the student holding up Finished Product usually is not that detailed orientated. 

Independent Practice

15 minutes

Once they were finished we then moved into our differentiated reading group rotation where one rotation is to write in their journal.  When students are writing in their journals, usually about a story or text we are working, they may refer back to the book for sequencing, details, or spelling.  If the journal writing appears to be completely copied from the anthology, the student is called on it and directed to re-write to the prompt in his/her own words while I continue to check the rest of the group's work.  Or they stay in during recess to finish.  In today's journal my students were to use their drawings from the activity to retell, in narrative form and their own words, the events of the caterpillar as it grew and meta-morphed into a butterfly.

The prompt I put on the Promethean board: Use your drawing to retell what happened to the caterpillar from the beginning to end.

I always check my student's journals when they come to me during our differentiated reading rotation.  Today they brought with them their activity drawings and journals.  In the video clip, Journal Check: Second Highest Reading Group, I can be heard asking the student after he read if he used his activity art to complete his journal.  The student in Journal Check: Highest Reading Group, also used her drawing activity, however, you can see the difference between  student work of a student trying to get to the highest reading group, and a student who is 'coasting'.  This is one reason why it is important to always check student work.  Once a student starts to 'coast' it is time to re-think what you, the teacher, is going to do to put the rigor and excitement back into that one student's learning.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

To earn a sticker my students needed to tell me how many weeks it took the caterpillar in the text to turn into a butterfly.