Visual Retelling

Retell stories through sequenced pictures or objects to support comprehension
6 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

In this strategy, teachers will use picture cards or props to retell a story. The Visual Retelling strategy will provide students with vocabulary building and sequence practice which will also enhance comprehension. This strategy could be used by the whole group, small group, during guided reading, or even 1:1. The strategy supports vocabulary building with pictures and props supporting the words. Sequencing practice gives students opportunities to build comprehension of a story. The strategy supports all learners by providing structures and supports for language barriers, visual cues to help with comprehension, and opportunities for further differentiation by adding more pictures or props as required to meet students' needs. 


Implementation Steps

  1. Pick a grade-level appropriate book that aligns to the teaching objectives.

    • This works best the first time with recalling or sequencing standards, but it can be used to scaffold basic comprehension before moving into more complex skills like summarizing.

    • Picture books or short stories work well with this strategy because of the ability to provide more pictures and props to support the story.

      • To use with longer texts, teachers might consider:

        • Picking key vocabulary for pictures or props to use throughout the longer text/book

        • Reading 1 chapter a time and sequence the chapter

        • Reading a portion of a longer text

  2. Create picture cards based on key terms from the story to support students in vocabulary-building.

    • Teachers might use a website like ESL Flashcards included below to create the cards.

    • Teachers should consider making a picture card of characters, major events, settings, important subjects or actions

  3. Read the story one time aloud to students and have them just listen and enjoy, paying attention to words or phrases they don't know.

  4. Introduce the props/picture cards to preview vocabulary. In doing so, teachers might choose to:

    • Introduce pictures and/or props to the whole class before reading the text by:

      • Holding up the picture with word written on a card, and saying the word while holding up the picture

      • Holding up the prop with the word written on a card, and saying the word while holding the prop

    • Introduce the pictures and/or props with small groups based on students' needs

      • Teachers might make the picture and word on two separate cards and have students match the vocabulary word to the picture card

      • If using props, teachers could have students match the vocabulary word card to the prop

  5. Read the story to students a second time. As main characters or events are read, have a prop or picture card to represent the character/event. 

    • Students can help by giving them the picture or prop to hold up when that character or event is mentioned in the story

      • If there are not a enough props for all students, read the story more than once so students have an opportunity to practice with different vocabulary cards

      • If you have picture cards, you could print a set for each student and have them hold up the card in the story when it is mentioned

  6. Pay attention to students' understanding as they hold up picture cards and props, and use this to inform future vocabulary and comprehension lessons.


EL Modification

This strategy can be used to support EL students who have additional challenges with vocabulary by adding the name of the picture and/or prop in both English and the student's native language. This would work best for a student who is fluent at reading their native language, but struggles with reading English. Additionally, EL students may benefit from additional pictorial support, beyond what is offered to the whole class.


  1. Make a flash card with the name of the picture/prop in English and students' native language(s) like the example included below.

Special Education Modification

Effective use of visual retelling may require a variety of skills: executive functioning (task initiation, working memory, etc.), reading, verbal skills, and/or written expression. In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas, teachers should consider the following modifications.


  1. Follow the implementation steps from the strategy
    • Consider the needs of your students or groups of students to pick the best modifications

      • Pictures being added

      • Audio

      • Video directions

      • Video modeling

  2. Make a set of individual flashcards for students to have and hold and use for themselves.

    • This will not work if you have props but you could make a vocabulary page with picture and word

  3. Create a storyboard with the set number of boxes for their visual retelling.

    • You might create a completed storyboard for students to match their cards to if this type of modification is needed, like the one included below.


Visual Retelling for Distance Learning

This strategy could be used with distance learning to support comprehension instruction. It is a unique way to engage students during synchronous instruction and provides authentic formative data for teachers, which can be challenging during distance learning

Implementation Steps:

  1. Instruct students to hold props and pictures into camera during a live Zoom meeting.
  2. Create a Slide Deck to display pictures during reading.
  3. As you read the book, display pictures/props/animations in the screen

    • Using the storyboard like the one below using google slides would be one example of doing this virtually

    • Another option would be using a Jamboard and building the squares within the Jamboard

Related Lessons

  • This strategy can be used with my "There's An Alligator Under My Bed" lesson  because this lesson supports students in learning transition words; using visual retelling in this lesson helps students to see when to use transition words between events.

  • This strategy can be used with my "Once There Was a Bullfrog" lesson because this lesson supports students in learning compound words, and visual retelling helps students learn these new words while sequencing the events in the book.

Tech Tools

Google Slides

  • Google slides is an online presentation builder (part of google apps) that allows users to create and share presentation slides.

  • This tech tool supports this strategy when making digital flashcards or to use this strategy with distance learning

Google Translate

  • Google Translate provides text-to-text translations between multiple languages.  Google translate also provides the audio of how to pronounce the translation.  The translated text can be copied and shared.  

  • This tech tool supports this strategy when making flashcards with vocabulary words in students Native Language

Google Docs

  • Google Docs is an online word processor (part of Google Apps) that allows you store, create and edit documents collaboratively in a web browser. 

  • This tech tool support this strategy when making a vocabulary sheet for Special Education Modifications, if needed

Culturally Responsive Learning Alignment

This strategy helps to promote culturally responsive teaching by using props/pictures that would be inclusive of the students lives and culture. 

This strategy could be used with all types of books, including holiday books from other countries and finding pictures or props of vocabulary items important to that holiday. Students could also share books that are important to them in their home and bring props or pictures to tell the story with. Students could also pick in the library that connects to them and create props and pictures for their book to share with the class.