Here are a few ideas to assist you with your second grade child at home with a basic second grade literacy skill, retelling a story.

    At the primary level a major measure of reading comprehension presently used in our schools is to have a student retell the story s/he has read. In order to succeed at this task students must be comfortable expressing themselves orally since an oral retell is the measure of their comprehension.

    One way parents can naturally assist in developing retell skills is in the ordinary conversation that can occur within family situations.

    Recently my granddaughter wanted to retell me the story of a movie she had just seen. There were many pauses as she tried to keep the order of events straight and remember the names of the characters. I knew my job was to listen with interest, enjoyment and patience as she retold the story. When these typical family situations occur, they provide an excellent opportunity for parents and other adults to foster expressive skills in a child. These are foundational skills for the retelling of stories expected in measures of reading comprehension.

    The following information lists:

    • Some Possible Retelling Topics
    • What"s Important in a Retelling
    • What Is Your Role

    Retelling Topics

    • Accounts of activities with friends.
    • Retell best event/ worst event of the day
    • Retell the story of a TV show or movie
    • Retell of classroom event(s). Hint: Elicit more information by asking not the general "What did you do in school today?" Try instead a specific question about e.g. the science lesson, the story the teacher is reading to the class, or any special events you are aware of in class, descriptions of what child did in ART, PE, or MUSIC, etc. Having children describe how a game is played or how to do an art project or craft gives excellent practice in sequencing information.
    • Retell of extra curricula programs or events e.g. skiing, scouts, dance lessons etc.
    • Retell of events that happened with one parent could be retold by your child at the end of the day to the other parent.

    What"s Important in a Retelling

    • Naming the characters or participants

    The child needs to name the characters or participants so the retell is clear to the listener. Children often start retelling using pronouns like "he", "she", or "they". This makes the story confusing because the characters haven"t been introduced. Introducing the characters by saying "This is a story about a cat named "Fluffy" is an important feature of a good retell. We find out that the main character is an animal and the animal"s name is Fluffy.

    • Sequencing the Events

    For the retell to make sense children need to start at the beginning and move through the sequence of events from beginning to the end identifying the main problem (if it"s a story being retold). The focus should be on how the main problem of the story is being solved through the sequence of events. This should include where and when things are happening so the listener is oriented to the story setting.

    • Adding Detail

    When retelling a story it becomes more alive when children add memorable parts of the dialogue or clear descriptions of characters, settings or action events. Stories also come alive when children add on reasons for things happening. I tell my students to "grow" their story by adding the word "because" and explaining why a character did something.

    What Is Your Role?

    • Take advantage of opportunities when you are together with your child and free to listen to her.
    • Ask the kinds of questions listed above and others that you think of to elicit more talking about event or stories.
    • Listen with an interest that shows in your smile or nod or occasional comment. Ask questions when an account becomes confusing. However do not drill your child. There may be "disconnects" because he cannot remember everything exactly.
    • Being able to clearly express oneself is a vital life skill. Know that you are helping to build this skill in these special times together.

    For more information on expressive language skills at an earlier stage see Mrs. Curtis’ website.

Last Modified on February 3, 2005